Joan Bakewell – Baroness Bakewell – writing in this morning’s Daily Telegraph on last week’s recall of the House of Lords:
“And so we flocked home: peers had flown in from Delhi and the US. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber made a brief appearance. I was just back from Italy where news of looting and burning had filtered through to our poolside haven. How serious could it be? The House of Lords had been recalled and I joined a crowded chamber.
Although the House of Commons hogged all the press coverage, there was more measured and thoughtful talk going on in the Lords. For a start, there were few peers who subscribed to the “criminality – pure and simple” mantra. Too many of them had years of experience in the police, in local government and in social agencies of one sort or another to go in for glib generalisations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury set the tone, talking positively of the opportunity the chaos has created for a major rethink of social priorities. Ideas flowed thick and fast at a closed meeting held later in the day. I heard Professor Peter Hennessy quote Michael Heseltine’s report on the Merseyside riots of 1981, which began: “It took a riot.” The tenor of the meeting seemed to be “let us not miss the chance this time round”.
Once again I was impressed by the store of wisdom and judgment that is packed away in the Lords: people there are able to take the long view both backwards – many even older than me – and forwards, looking further than the next election’s chances. The Lords is a kind of Court of Elders where accumulated experience of decades sits waiting to be used. Any reform must ensure that such expertise is not simply blown away to the four winds.”