Lords Diary: Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
“I can see that the current Government muddle is indicative of Johnson’s opportunistic tumbleweed style of governing”
I came home on Saturday evening from only two days of Green Party conference, happy but very tired from the constant interactions with old and new friends. Sunday was spent peacefully on my allotment, picking the last raspberries, cucumber, and the never ending runner beans. But lots of time was spent on email and Twitter too, trying to form a coherent plan for another chaotic and confusing few days in Parliament.
The early train to London on Monday was rammed. Luckily I get on before the rush. I always take lots to read and always end up doing urgent emails instead.
In the news, Boris Johnson. Back when I was a London Assembly Member, I watched our prime minister like a hawk for the eight years he was Mayor. (Oddly, none of us ever knew about Jennifer Arcuri so were unable to ask questions, although the Assembly is doing so now.) I can see that the current Government muddle is indicative of his opportunistic tumbleweed style of governing. During a panel discussion on LBC, Iain Dale turned to me and said, Jenny, you probably know Boris better than any of us, but you like him don’t you? Well yes, but mostly no.
Once arrived in London, I walked to work over Westminster Bridge, which was already closed for the Climate protests. I chatted to Extinction Rebellion rebels and to the police. I told the rebels I was in the House of Lords and got a much warmer reception than I expected. Being Green definitely helps. With the police, not so much. But being a peer was a pacifier and got me in and out of police lines. Many of the police are doing 12 or 15 hour shifts, with irregular food and loo breaks. That’s quite tough. I would argue that a peaceful protest doesn’t need that level of policing and that negotiation with XR liaison people is a powerful tool that seems mostly unused.
At the office, our new intern Josh started promptly at 10am, smartly suited, then had a day of following me around the protests, talking to police and demonstrators. I made a short speech to the crowds in Millbank, then rushed back to meet my local vicar and a navy friend, who had come up to London to support the demos.
Tuesday morning, the protests were still active in Millbank outside the office and in Marsham Street, where more of my rebel friends were embedded. I walked to Trafalgar Square, which was like a festival, happy and relaxed, with lots of music. I saw several arrests, with police often carrying limp people away. The rebel crowds seemed relaxed and peaceful, considering their aim to send an incredibly important message to politicians, that we must act on the climate crisis we are facing.
Later, in the House, a peer asked why the police weren’t keeping the streets clear. I intervened and pointed out that cars themselves create gridlock, with added air pollution, and the streets around Parliament are fresher than they have been since the last protest. I can’t say that the House offered much support for my views.
In the evening, Progrogation. Again. Not the unlawful sort, but a legitimate one. It involved the Leaders of the groups wearing robes and hats; the women wore tricorns and the men wore bicorns. The ceremony entailed calling the remaining MPs and the Speaker from the Commons, to hear the Queen’s instructions, plus lots of bowing and doffing of bicorns, and even some medieval French, La Reine le veult, ‘the Queen wills it’. During the ceremony, the Leader of the House read out the Queen’s list of the work done since the last (legal) prorogation, which did not seem a particularly impressive list, given that we have been sitting for more than two years.
In the morning, an early breakfast in the Terrace Café before starting a Strategy Day on how to create a new team with our new Green peer, Natalie Bennett. We deliberated relentlessly, and disagreed a bit, finally arriving at an outcome that suited us all. We divided the topics, eg amongst other things, Natalie will take electoral reform, education, and women’s issues – wonderful! While I can tussle with a few including Policing, civil liberties and the Green deal. We are ready for the new session.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb is a Green Party peer