On form

Baroness Williams

This evening I attended the latest in the series of Speaker’s Lectures on eminent parliamentarians.  It was given by Shirley Williams – Baroness Williams of Crosby – on Nancy Astor.    Baroness Williams was in characteristic form, both in content and in behaviour.

When she was a Cabinet Minister in the 1970s, she had a reputation for being somewhat absent minded.   On one occasion, it is claimed, she was rushing to catch a train and was looking for her ticket as she approached a ticket collector.  ‘Oh that’s alright’, said the ticket collector, ‘we know who you are’.  ‘Oh’, replied the minister, ‘I’m not getting it out for you, I’m getting it out to see where I’m supposed to be going!’

This evening, Baroness Williams opened her lecture, then announced that she had forgotten her glasses, and – when a young man who had disappeared in order to find them did not return – adjourned the lecture so that she could go and retrieve her handbag.  Having successfully located it, she then returned to the lectern and completed her fascinating lecture.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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6 Responses to On form

  1. Dave H says:

    She didn’t just carry on from memory then? I guess that’s where being absent-minded makes it even harder.

    I left my wedding speech on the kitchen table and didn’t realise I’d done so until it was too late so I had to improvise – no putting things on hold while I went home to collect it.

  2. Jonathan says:

    One could be charitable and suggest that a minister must be so busy, and with a schedule prepared by other people, that it would be possible for her not to know where she was going until the last minute.

  3. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,

    I do not usually wear spectacles and am typing this and other such communications without them. However, there are limits to what I can do without reading glasses. I have given thousands of speeches of one kind or another when I was younger and continue to follow an outline of memorized notes with glasses only in preparation. However, I have a background in formal oral interpretation and have been a regular lector in church — including a few years when I read for a very perfectionist and highly respected liturgist who was then pastor at my church. Some people are kind enough to remember this and so I am sometimes asked to read at weddings or special occasions where complete memorization and stumbling are both unacceptable.

    I cannot walk elegantly to the podium in my glasses as I have no bifocals. I have to negotiate the placing of the glasses as best I can. But first they must get there. For my sister’s wedding there were missives from the Holy See (not read by me), priests from several continents and a church full of those she loves or cares about. I placed a pair of glasses in my car ahead of time and one in my jacket in advance and left one in position at church. I forgot the ones in the car. The ones at church did not appear in the proper place but uselessly nearby. The one pair in my jacket pocket broke into pieces for no reason I can determine –fortunately, I had entrusted a pair to a relative who showed up in time and brought them to me.

    I suppose that the Minister is however a generaly more well-liked person whom people are pleased to indulge. I have the talent of getting along badly with a great number of people so also being unable to see the text is perhaps more essential for me.

    • franksummers3ba says:

      I mean essentially bad — the rarely used perjorative form most will never have seen. The point being that some can get away with such things better than others.

  4. ladytizzy says:

    O/T, with usual apologies.

    This morning, Radio 5Live ran a mock election using both FPTP and AV:
    The section starts approx 1 hour in, the final result approx 1hr 25m. On the assumption that the academic (an expert in voting systems) playing the part of a returning officer was a genuine attempt at portraying reality he announced that the winning candidate had received 49% of the votes!

    If you care to listen to the whole thing it is clear what happened but nonetheless confused people who are being led to believe that AV will produce a winner with more than 50% of the votes. Also, John Pienar misled the audience when asked whether the proposals for boundary changes would be affected by the result of the referendum (quickly corrected by Tom Harris MP).

    Oh dear.

    • ladytizzy says:

      Sorry, to clarify, the whole 2 hr programme is devoted to the subject, the results start 1 hr in. And the expert academic is Alan Renwick.

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