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Lords Diary: Baroness Fox

House of Lords hosts sixth-form debate | Image © House of Lords / photography by Roger Harris

Baroness Fox

Baroness Fox

4 min read

Non-partisan solidarity in the House of Lords is a refreshing antidote to today’s often-toxic sectarianism

One advantage of being a non-affiliated peer, with no party whip, is that I can choose which bills I follow. It makes for a varied political experience, but it can mean being an isolated voice, raising issues not usually considered within the Westminster bubble. 

More gratifying is when something is so important it allows peers across parties to unite. That was the case with amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, relating to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). This sentencing regime became so discredited it was abolished in 2012. Yet thousands of IPP prisoners still languish in prison, sometimes decades beyond their original tariff, while others – released on unusually stringent licences – are forced to jump through almost impossible hoops, so are often recalled. 

How rewarding to speak alongside champions of IPP prisoners across the political divide, such as Conservative peer Lord Moylan, the Lib Dems’ Baroness Burt, crossbencher Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti. Such non-partisan solidarity is a refreshing antidote to today’s often-toxic sectarianism.

Behind the scenes of the debates in the Chamber, it’s a privilege to have access to a wide range of parliamentary briefings. Some of the testimonies I’ve heard from families of hostages taken in the antisemitic pogrom in Israel on 7 October make me even more determined to challenge the visceral anti-Jewish hatred we’ve witnessed in public life in recent months. I was especially moved hearing first-hand accounts of Hamas’ deliberate use of sexual violence. This brought home that it is little use in making performative speeches in the Chamber in support of initiatives about violence against women and girls if we remain silent when we deem some women to be the wrong kind of victims.

How rewarding to speak alongside champions of IPP prisoners across the political divide

On a more upbeat note, I was delighted to be one of the sponsoring peers for the electric presentations on Why are there two sexes – and why does that matter? given by eminent evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins and Helen Joyce, co-director of Sex Matters. Erudite, witty and insightful speeches were followed by a full and frank discussion about the social impacts of confusing biological sex and subjective gender identity. This leads to perverse political consequences, such as the distortion of official crime statistics, the subject of one of my own amendments recently. 

These are thorny issues; it can be nerve-wracking to speak out when such ideas can lead to one being labelled a bigot or having one’s reputation trashed. The threat of being “cancelled” is muted for peers, but there are no such protections for sex realists who work in Parliament. Therefore, I was delighted to attend the packed launch of new staffers’ network Seen (Sex Equity and Equality Network). For more information, email:

Although a working peer, my day job is as director of the Academy of Ideas. Twenty years ago, we founded Debating Matters, a competition for sixth-formers that emphasises substance over style. Although Debating Matters is now run by educational charity Ideas Matter, it was lovely to be part of hosting the initiative in the House of Lords and hear four schools debate such challenging topics as cancel culture, media ownership and whether museums should repatriate artefacts.

One feature of the format is that adult judges cross-examine students to test their arguments. Special thanks to the peers who – representing all sides of the House – put pupils through their paces.

Outside of Parliament, I’m regularly asked to speak to civil-society groups, usually about my core passion, free speech. Inevitably, audiences want to know what being in the House of Lords is really like. In that context, and because I’m conscious that we in the Lords are unelected, my modest nod to democratic accountability is a regular Inside The Lords vlog. Of course, I also recommend people read The House magazine!

Baroness Fox of Buckley is a Non-affiliated peer

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