The House of Lords

October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday evening I was privileged enough to go along to the Houses of Parliament and witness a debate in the House of Lords.

The subject for the “debate” (and I use the term loosely as I don’t believe people, all from the same political party, with the same ideals and values discussing a topic can be called a debate) was ‘In Praise of Social Democracy’.

The topic was derived from the published article of two of the panelists – chair, Dr. Kevin Hickson and Lord Roy Hattersley, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

Entering the House of Lords

Entering Parliament via the Black Rod’s gate, along with my fellow debater-viewers, Anca, Bea and our lecturer Jean (two other girls from the course, Di Zou and Asta joined us later) was quite a thrill to be honest.

We went through security, were given identity badges for the evening (we had to give these back, though one of us did not!) and waited until we were called to the correct room.

The room itself was beautifully decorated.

The wallpaper was adorned with a green and red pattern (I assume the colours were representative of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons), there was a large picture on the back wall and the lights looked, to me, as if they were upside-down lampshades.

The debate itself

To be perfectly frank most of what was said over the next two hours, by the panelists and from those in the public who made their own views on the ‘debate’ heard, went over my head.

I don’t pretend to understand politics, and for the most part, what was ‘debated’ I did not completely understand.

From my, perhaps cynical point of view, the ‘debate’ was merely a way of labour party members (and supporters) to discuss what needs to be done in order for the party to achieve success (aka win) at the next elections.

The highlight for me did not come from the debate itself, but the moment when a bell sounded (ringing out more like an alarm) announcing that the Lords who were present needed to go and make their vote (I unfortunately do not know what the vote was for).

It sounds rather a boring thing to be a highlight – but perhaps that is simply reflective of the ‘debate’ itself.

Brief summary

Although I felt out of my depth for most of it, I will, for those of you who are curious, and want to know what was actually said, do my best to provide you with an overview.

Please forgive me for my lack of insight or in-depth explanation.

One of the main points of discussion was what are the main challenges facing the Labour Party. John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen stated that there were four challenges:

1) the economy and the fact that a ‘free market economy’ is not working

2) the welfare system and the public’s current lack of confidence in it

3) the delivery of public goods

4) Britain’s place in the world – and how the party doesn’t have a strong view on where Britain’s place was in Europe

These sentiments were shared among other panelists, including the only woman on the panel, Helen Goodman MP for Bishop Auckland.She reiterated that the biggest concern was the time of economic insecurity that we are living in.

Main idea….

For me, the main point to come out of the ‘debate’ was that the Labour party, at the current point in time, does not have a strong sense of what its own values are.

Lord Hattersley (who co-wrote the article ‘In Praise of Social Democracy’) summed this point up saying, “labour won’t survive without a clear ideology”.

Our very own lecturer, Jean Seaton stated that the idea of “we want more equality” is simply not a persuasive enough argument anymore.

One man (whose name I did not catch) said that Labour had “lost faith in what we believe in” and “lost faith in our values”.

This was also felt to be the case by Lord Neil Kinnock, former leader of the Labour party. He said that Labour needs to relate its set of values and views of the state to the “realities, ambitions and needs of the people”.

To me, those present at the ‘debate’ believe that in order for Labour to be a successful party once more, it needs to figure out what it’s values and ideas are and get those beliefs across to the public.

At the end of the debate, the four other girls and I left the House of Lords, taking our very own souvenir with us – an (empty) bottle of water, with ‘House of Lords’ written on.

It’s wonderful to live in a social democracy.

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