A labour of love…

Or a trip down memory lane…

In an earlier post, I said how pleased I was to see that it was now possible to obtain copies of my first book, Dissension in the House of Commons 1945-74, in a softcover edition.  As I recorded, it was essentially a volume of data on dissension in the division lobbies of the Commons.  It derived from a manual study of about 3,000 division lists and at least one million names.  As one reader observed in commenting on the post, given modern computing such data nowadays could probably be obtained in an afternoon.  However, as the picture illustrates, the volume itself was more than a dataset, as it also included summaries of the debates on which the dissent occurred.

Looking through the volume brought back memories of the research entailed.  In those days, it was a case of going through each volume of Hansard, examining each division list and, if there was some dissension, recording in longhand details of the debate as well as listing the names of dissenters, and checking The Times for any coverage of the dissent.  The recollection prompted me to check my archives (aka the shelves in the garage) and look through my original files: I still have the longhand transcriptions of the debates.  The typescript material is actually more extensive than that which was published, as I also recorded data on free votes on which party members divided.

The handwritten pages I later transposed to typescript.  The manuscript of the book was over 1,000 typescript pages.  The book itself is 643 pages.

A friend not so long ago told me that I was an introvert.  This he deduced from the fact that an extrovert looks to instant gratification.  As my friend noted, I am quite prepared to engage in research for ages until I produce a result.  Given that this volume of Dissension (I produced a later one for the 1974-79 Parliament) entailed at least two years of solid research, virtually all of it spent underground (Hansard and The Times were stored below the surface in Stack 3 of Sheffield University Library), he probably has a point.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to A labour of love…

  1. Happy Easter, your lordship! Two years researching underground may not make you an introvert: you may just be a troglodyte!

    Kind regards,

  2. Croft says:

    OT: Guess we will see just the FTA works now LN. Frankly unless there has been some amazing behind the scenes deal with Blairite Labour MPs agreeing to support TM just to get rid of JC (somthing I don’t find convincing) I can’t see she has the numbers for this early election…

    While I always thought it a good idea to hold one – having stood against it so long, and not even laid the groundworks with a pretext, I suspect this will damage her if she fails with the vote.

    • maude elwes says:

      @ Croft:

      She isn’t going to fail. And, the public are, in the main, thrilled with the call. I watched the journalists on Sky gob smacked by the response they had when they questioned passers by at random. Out of about ten people, only one was A) for Remain. Two of them having voted that way but now had changed for out and wanted moved along quickly, and, B) Loved Mrs May.

      So, her timing was perfect and she has excellent reasons to take this decision at this time. She is absolutely right, the country is moving in a more united way and Parliament are totally out of step. It is an excellent way to rid the House of Blair and his cronies.

      We need a strong opposition. One that has policies that weigh heavily on any government of the day. Their big problem today is, as Tebbit suggested, a government more suited to those who come here to live rather than those who culturally love the British way of life and want to keep it.

      I think she has her ear to the ground. At least on this.

      • Croft says:

        I assumed that labour would play games as they did over Maastricht: that while professing to want an election would contrive a pretext to oppose it simply to destabilise the government. I’m amazed quite how useless Labour’s top team are….

    • tizres says:

      Croft: “…just to get rid of JC,,,”. For me (and David “For Heaven’s sake, man, go” Cameron et al) that would be enough.

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