Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A new Leader in the Lords... some thoughts from a close observer

So, the count took place, with both candidates and the outgoing Leader present, under the close watch of the Deputy Chief Whip, Christine Humphreys, and I was able to declare the result as being;

Dick Newby 59 votes, Robin Teverson 44 votes

Close, but no cigar, for the former MEP, but it was no disgrace to pick up more than 40% of the votes.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him take on a leadership role in the future.

Dick Newby has been on my radar for more than three decades now, from his SDP days. He, like I, has a Civil Service background, he was predominantly a back room influence but now has the challenging job of leading a Group which is not always easily led.

His first task will be to persuade someone to come forward to assume his former role as Chief Whip, a job which some might say is a bit harder than that of Leader. After all, how do you instil discipline into a group of people who are there for life and who have done or been most things already? Not so much enforcer as persuader.

I will have to get used to a new Leader too. When I first started seeing Ros, Tom McNally was into his third year as Leader. I tended to refer to him as the 'Glorious Leader', at first as a mark of respect, and then, as we got to know each other, out of warmth. Indeed, I still refer to him as 'Glorious Leader' when we occasionally run into each other, adding the suffix 'Emeritus' in deference to the fact that we have had a new Leader since.

Jim Wallace hasn't been in post anywhere near as long as Tom was, and we haven't had as much contact - my relocation to Suffolk makes me a relatively infrequent visitor, and there don't seem to be as many gatherings of the Group and spouses as there were - but he seems nice enough.

And so, we wait to see what a Newby leadership brings. The Group will evolve, and almost certainly shrink too. There are a number of members in their eighties, who may not welcome many more years of service, and with replenishments at the mercy of Theresa May, who I don't think is likely to be generous, the burden of opposition will fall on those who remain. Luckily, the recent intakes of new blood are keen and sharp.

Me, I'll be an occasional visitor to Whips Office, as and when circumstance brings me to Westminster, and I'm sure that Ros will keep me up to date with those stories that she can share. And I wish Dick good fortune. He'll bring his own thoughts to the role, and I'm confident that he'll do everything he can to make the Liberal Democrat voice heard in the Upper Chamber...

No comments: