Thursday 20 November 2008

How to be effective....

....in the House of Lords. Wearing a suit is not enough (see 19th November). To be really effective, a sense of humour is required. A Peer who uses gentle humour can go a long way to win the support of the House. For example on Oct 16th Lord Adonis deftly answered questions about cycling. It is an issue which can raise tensions - as supporters of cycling are countered by Peers who see cyclists as dangerous threats to public safety.

He was asked by Lordf Krebs - "What does the Minister intend to do about local authorities such as Oxfordshire County Council which are removing cycle lanes and footpaths to make more space for cars and buses? Does the noble Lord agree that this is contrary to government policy, and what does he intend to do about it?"

a politically charged questioned (implicedly criticising the Conservative administration; and a pro-cycling question) . Lord Adonis won the House by beginning his reply

"My Lords, I am at one with HG Wells, who said:
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race”.

Later in the questioning the following exchange took place

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, a lot has been said about cycling but not as much has been said about walking, although all the evidence shows that the amount of walking that people do is declining. I know what keeps me walking: it is my dog. Perhaps the Government should consider encouraging more people to keep dogs.

Lord Adonis: Perhaps or perhaps not, my Lords; there are pros and cons. Of course, it is absolutely vital that people feel safe when they are walking but Her Majesty’s Government have not seen it as a priority to teach people how to walk, so we give more emphasis to policy promoting cycling. If I were to publish a walking strategy document, it might be thought to be the ultimate example of the nanny state.
It's worth watching the House at work - to see how gentle humour is frequently employed. You can do this at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/