Recording a gesture…

The job of Hansard reporters is a demanding one.  Members sometimes are not always clear in what they say or how they say it, and sometimes employ words that are problematic.  Conveying in writing what is clear when a peer speaks can create challenges.  A speaker may refer ‘to the noble Lord’, gesturing to whoever is being mentioned, but it is not clear from the written word as to who it is.  I have previously noted the occasion when Earl Ferrers finished a sentence along the lines of ‘well, I don’t know..’ and shaking his head with a noise not dissimilar to a horse neighing.  I glanced at the Hansard reporters and saw them looking at one another with a ‘what do we do with that?’ look.

I was reminded of this last week when Lord Giddens was speaking.  He refered to the massive rise in the global population in recent years.   ‘It went up like this’, he said, gesturing with his arm in a sharp upward direction.  I looked across at the Hansard box and saw the same reaction as to the Lord Ferrers’ contribution.  I checked Hansard the next day.  The reference was left out. 

The challenge reminded me of an occasion in the Commons when Jack Straw referred to me, but mispronounced ‘Louth’.  On the Conservative benches, Keith Simpson corrected him, shouting out the correct pronunciation.   I was fascinated as to how Hansard would record the interjection.  ‘It’s not Louth, it’s Louth’ would not exactly convey what was said!  Instead, it appeared as ‘It’s not Looth, it’s Lowth’, which dealt with it splendidly.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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3 Responses to Recording a gesture…

  1. Jonathan says:

    At what point does a gesture become an exhibit, which isn’t allowed? Anything that isn’t audible surely could be considered as such.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Jonathan: Indeed; I am struck that members don’t always think about how what they are saying or doing will, or will not, be recorded. Hansard does not record gestures; then again, it does not include annotations to the effect that something was said ironically or with particular emphasis. What goes down well in the chamber can sometimes look mundane or largely unintelligble in print.

  2. franksummers3ba says:

    Perhaps Hansard will eventually include emoticons…

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