An active intake

A co-chair of the Parliamentary University Group, I hosted a reception last night for parliamentarians and Vice-Chancellors.  I was struck not only by the number of newly-elected MPs who attended but also by their enthusiasm.  The 2010 intake – on both sides – looks like being a lively one.

The election in which MPs are first returned can make quite a difference to how they view parliamentary life.  There can be a notable difference between parliamentary cohorts.   The Labour MPs first elected in 1997 – large in number, many returned (in some cases unexpectedly) for marginal seats and crediting their election to the party leader – were very different to the new cohort of Labour Members returned in the 2001 election – small in number, essentially succeeding retiring Labour MPs in safe seats, able to anticipate a long parliamentary career, and with a more notable corporate spirit.

It will be interesting to see how the large intake of new Conservative MPs develops, not least compared to the smaller intake of new Labour – and Liberal Democrat – Members.   They all seem to be adapting to the parliamentary environment with enthusiasm, many having already made their maiden speeches.  It used to be the case that older Members would advise waiting until one had the feel of the House before making a maiden speech (something I did when I entered the Lords), but that seems not to hold sway now to the extent that it did in the past.  There seems to be a desire to get involved as soon as possible.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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12 Responses to An active intake

  1. Croft says:

    It’s my experience that people joining new organisations are generally very keen to join in but enthusiasm tempers and commitments soon rise so we will see if this new entry prove any different than the past. The press likes new dawns but the reality…

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: I agree, but it will be interesting to see how long enthusiasm is maintained and whether it produces lasting consequences, such as the 1922 Committee (formed by some Tory MPs first elected in 1922) or some of the unofficial groupings, such as dining groups, formed by the new intake in more modern parliaments. These are somewhat more extensive on the Conservative side than is popularly realised.

  2. Carl.H says:

    The dream is great but the ideaology that things are black and white will wane unfortunately.

  3. Chris K says:

    I too have been impressed with the activity and independence that the new members are showing. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate what was going on in 1997, but I suspect there is quite a contrast in attitude and that is most welcome.

    One thing I’ve notice that slightly annoys me is that some of the intake think it’s acceptable to clap in the Chamber.

    Perhaps after that ‘tribute’ to Blair and also to the then Michael Martin (now Lord Martin of Springburn), not clapping in the chamber is another tradition gone?

    • Croft says:

      I’m with you there I dislike clapping in the chamber.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Chris K: I suspect it may be a consequence of many new MPs not having a knowledge of parliamentary history and procedures. This year’s intake, as in 1997, is so large that by itself it can affect the whole character of the House.

  4. Carl.H says:

    Totally off topic but…..

    If most of the IED`s (Improvised Explosive Device) in Afghanistan and Iraq are mobile phone detonated why does no one use Mobile Phone Blockers/Jammers ?

    Or is there a technical issue to this ?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: I’m sure there is a technical problem, otherwise I’m sure someone would have acted on it by now. No doubt some of our readers with a science background – and there are several – could enlighten us.

      • Croft says:

        Carl: The essential problem is that the mobile phone triggered devices are not the whole but only one of many devices. You block phone signals they use infra red, or revert to pressure plates or a command wire triggered devices which are all but unblockable.

        The central problem for all armies is that you can defuse or destroy 99% of all devices but the 1% is still a lot of casualties. Last year there were ~8,000 devices which gives some sense of the numbers involved.

  5. E.K. says:

    I know this isn’t exactly on topic but I was wondering how members of Select Committees are chosen? Is it by lot or are more experienced members given preference?

    • Lord Norton says:

      E.K.: In the Commons they were previously selected for all intents and purposes by the whips. In the new Parliament – as part of the Wright reforms – they are now elected by their respective parties. Each party is setting up the mechanism for electing the members of the committees. As you will know, the chairs have just been elected on a whole-House basis, that is where the electorate comprises all MPs (though ministers were encouraged not to take part), but it is left to each party to elect the party members on each committee.

      In the Lords, members of select committees are recommended by the Committee of Selection and approved on a motion by the House. The Committee also recommends who should be the chair and again this is approved by the House. The criteria for selection are essentially those of experience and expertise – the Committee looks for the most qualified members. There is also a rotation rule – you serve for three years and are then ‘rotated off’, so there is a good replenishment.

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