A dying breed

I have posted a quick note on Lords of the Blog about the death of Norman St John-Stevas, the Lord St John of Fawsley.  Though frail, he was intellectually alert to the end and continued attending the Lords.  He was well able to contribute effectively to debate.  He is one of several notable members that the House has lost recently.  The other most notable death in recent days was that of Lord Carr, who as Robert Carr was at one time in the 1970s spoken off as a future leader of the Conservative party.   The election of Margaret Thatcher as party leader put paid to his prospects of advancement.  He was decidely in the Heathite camp.   He continued attending the Lords into his nineties and at one point I was told he had injured himself when clambering on to his roof. 

I knew Norman St.John-Stevas – we were chatting recently about Lords reform – and his passing marks the disappearance of a distinctive parliamentary figure.  I was reflecting recently on some of the people we have lost over the time I have been in the House, not least those who would join me for lunch when they came into the Bishop’s Bar – peers like Lord Dearing, always keen to know how the University of Hull was doing (he was a Hull graduate), and Lord Biffen, always keen to combine his wit with a wry view of what was going on – he was always good value.  I was also occasionally joined by Lord Strabolgi, who had a great grasp of parliamentary procedure – he had been in the Lords for more than half-a-century and whose father was a Labour MP for Hull in the inter-war years. 

Given this line of thought, I had perhaps better not mention who variously join me for lunch nowadays!  My principal point, though, is that the Lords has an array of remarkable members, who have contributed a lot to public life, from a range of positions.  It is difficult to think of a body that can draw them together in the way that the House does and utilise their experience despite the passing of the years.  All the peers I have mentioned were active in the House until shortly before their deaths.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to A dying breed

  1. Tory Boy says:

    What about the late Baroness Carnegy of Lour she seemed to have sharp mind on legislation and was behind many “probing amendments” of bills.

  2. Edward Brunsdon says:

    One quality of the Lords is that it provides something of an antidote to the cult of youth we seem to have in the other place. The leadership of all three parties are all fourty-somethings and it seems that most Ministerial careers are all but over by the age of 60. Ken Clarke and Vince Cable are very much the exceptions.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Edward Brunsdon: Indeed. Given the changing proflie of the UK population (where over-65s now apparently out-number the under-16s) the House may be becoming a little more representative of the nation. Lord Howell of Guildford, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, is 76.

  3. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Edward Brunson,
    In the US Senate the former Confederate States had a customed even since before they were ever COnfederate States of electing a Senato when he was in his forties or even late thirties and expecting him to die of old age in office or come as close as possible. This was to produce the greatest seniority possible. This then ispired others to aspire to this as well. However, seniority has declined in importance. While that has made it easier for a few older persons to be elected it has in general greatly diminished the number of very old people I think (without absolutely perfect fact checking) as well as leaving us fewer very experienced Senators. The Senate is much more partisan, much more like the House and much more subject to the whims of fashion.

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