I had been hoping to do a post-Question Time blog yesterday, but events conspired against me. The first, and saddest, was the funeral of Nigel Doughty, to whom I posted a tribute here on Wednesday. It was a really beautiful service, the most moving part of which was his son Michael’s brief and tearful tribute. I also said to Fiona when I got home that though I may not do God, I would like a Church choir at my funeral. The singing by the Farm St Church choristers, and in particular the soloist who sang Ave Maria, was wonderful.
It was nice to see Gordon and Sarah Brown at the reception afterwards. He was a good friend of Nigel’s. I have seen Gordon just twice in the last few weeks, both times at funerals. With football in the air, we got onto the subject of Raith Rovers’ struggles to stay alive. Labour press officer Graham Gilby is trying to organise a pro-am match in London for February 19 to raise funds for the club. Any top players happening onto here, please contact him at email@example.com and yes, Graham, I did ask Gordon if he would get his boots out. He looked a bit alarmed!
From there to re-record parts of my documentary on alcohol, to take into account a new report coming out shortly. The film is going out on Panorama on BBC 1 Monday February 20.
Then onto the tube to Holborn for a couple of meetings. I thought people weren’t meant to talk to you on the tube. Twice people started up without invite, to engage in two of the debates that had been on Question Time, namely Abu Qatada (I was on the liberal side of the argument for once) and Leveson (someone asking how I managed to keep so cool with Ann Leslie chuntering away) The answer, by the way, is that I kept thinking of Denis Healey’s wonderful line that being attacked by Geoffrey Howe was like being attacked by a dead sheep.
Which brings me to … er, Geoffrey Howe.
One of the frustrating things about a programme like Question Time is that you can do all sorts of research but unless the right question or moment comes up, it might be wasted. The great thing about a blog is that nothing need be wasted.
When I was researching Shirley Williams’ ‘talk the talk but don’t vote the vote’ record in the Lords, I came across a fascinating pattern, which for some reason the mainstream media do not seem onto.
In the House of Lords, there is a seeming permanent rebellion going on from some of the big names of the Thatcher era. If my calculations are correct, the league table looks something like this
Tony Newton has rebelled 13 times. Geoffrey Howe 12. Michael Forsyth 8. Norman Lamont 5. Nigel Lawson and Leon Brittan 4. Norman Tebbit 3.
And on 25th January this year, 11 former cabinet ministers rebelled in the same vote on the Welfare Reform Bill. 10 were Thatcher Cabinet ministers whilst one – Brian Mawhinney – served only under John Major.
The issue was whether the Child Maintenance & Enforcement Commission could charge a £100 fee and 15% commission (of any maintenance agreement) from a person with childcare responsibility after a divorce or split (chiefly women).The amendment would not allow the Commission to charge these fees of women where they had taken reasonable steps to get a maintenance agreement from the other parent.
Fairly technical you might think, but it is interesting, surely, that so many ministers from the most right wing government in our lifetime were appalled at what the Camerom government is trying to do here. So let’s hear it for, and let’s hear a bit on the media from
Leon Brittan, Peter Carrington, Geoffrey Howe, Patrick Jenkin, Nigel Lawson, John MacGregor, James Mackay, Brian Mawhinney, Patrick Mayhew, Tony Newton, John Wakeham and Bertie Denham (not sure if he was a fully fledged Cabinet member as Lords chief whip but you get my point).
Off to Southampton v Burnley now. The Burnley team are staying in the same hotel where Labour’s regional conference is taking place. Small world. Well it’s not, it’s a really big world, but you know what I mean.