A week in the life

24th to 30th October 2016 Lords diary for House magazine

Monday  Met with a Green Party delegation from Staffordshire and heard some useful anecdotes from them on failing local bus services in their area. To the Chamber, for the Bus Services’ Bill. A good bill with a few serious flaws. I’ve put down an amendment on Bus Safety Reporting; if passed it would be the only mention of safety in the whole bill. Before that there is a vote on continuing to allow local councils to run bus services. I spoke and used my Staffs’ colleague’s example for emphasis. I do love defeating the Government. I withdrew my safety amendment, but in view of the Minister’s comments, hope to bring a slightly revised version back at 3rd reading next week. Was glad of cross party support.

Tuesday  Invited by Conservative Peer Lady Berridge to a meeting with the Home Office Minister on her amendment to reduce the alcohol limit for driving legally. Delighted to be there, also with Labour peers and have cosigned the amendment.

Wednesday  A horrible hour at the dentist to save an upper molar – expensive and painful. Leave the surgery wondering if I really needed that back tooth and whether health treatment costs will go the same way as the dental service. Mouth recovered in time to join the London APPG where Sadiq Khan and Tony Travers explained the need for London to keep more of its taxes. Told there is no formal process for London to feed into the Brexit negotiations, which seems illogical.

Thursday  In early to prepare for my Question for Short Debate (QSD), on the detention of pregnant women. Government refusing to say how many and why it is holding them, so we can’t tell if they are following their own rules limiting detention of pregnant women to 72hrs. Met briefly with a trainee journalist from City University to talk air pollution, Heathrow and Climate Change. My elder daughter is a journalist, so I like to make time for journalism students if I can. Waiting to go into Oral Questions, I had a surprise apology from a peer for a row we had 4 months ago during the referendum campaign. He was extremely rude to me and we had a stand up shouting match in a corridor until a Minister intervened. On this occasion we parted friends. At Oral Questions, I came in on a question on solar panels. I’m furious that the Govt reduced the Feed In Tariff last year, and now wants to remove the tax exemption too. Solar and other sustainable energy sources should be seriously supported, not penalised. Minister refused my offer to visit a school to explain why they would now have to pay tax on their panels. The QSD went well with wonderfully informed support from others. Government response: ‘we will not publish a running commentary’. Caught late train to Dorset for 36hours of clean air – emails on train obviously.

Friday  In between putting out a beer trap for slugs to keep them away from our early peas, picking the last raspberries from the allotment, and chatting to neighbours, I daydream about having another Green peer (or several). With 1m votes at the last General Election, yet only one MP elected, if the Government won’t bring in Proportional Representation it could at least give us more peers.

Saturday  A day out in Exeter, with my younger daughter and her children, where the UK’s oldest hotel has burnt down. Then back to London on the slowest train imaginable, but allowing time to catch up on emails and start this diary.

Sunday  Day spent planning for the following week, including butting in on Monday’s 3rd reading of the appallingly repressive Investigatory Powers Bill, a speech at the 10th anniversary of the SOS Project which helps young people leave gangs, and organising a Green Party women’s supper for 20 in the Barry Room, which seems to be the only way to get more Greens into Parliament at the moment.


24th February to 1st March 2016 Lords diary for House magazine

Wednesday  Cycled from home to City Hall through beautiful frosty Burgess Park, arriving at my desk by 7am. Lots of emails, speaking requests and reading to do for both London Assembly and House of Lords. On 5th May this year I will stand down after 16 years on the Assembly, leaving me free to be a fulltime peer. Until then, I have committee meetings, e.g. Economy Committee where we hear about housing shortages in London. Dash to a yoga class, then homemade sandwiches at my computer, plus a big piece of chocolate cake (thank you to Rachel, wife of Tom, our Office Manager). After lunch I cycle to the House of Lords for Oral Questions, where I suggest the Government gives advice to pension funds on divesting from fossil fuels before the Carbon Bubble bursts. Cup of tea with fellow peer Chris Holmes, talking Boris, Brexit and Labradors. Back to City Hall for an evening celebration for 200 of the wonderful people who have helped me and Darren Johnson to be effective since May 2000.

Thursday  An 0830 meeting with the Met Police’s Deputy Commissioner, so he can explain (or not) the curious deletion of my files from the Domestic Extremist database just two days after I said I would be asking to see them. Result: Met can’t be sure why the files were deleted.

Friday  Catch the 0705 train to Harrogate for Green Party conference. I’ve been a GP member since 1988 so mostly go to catch up with old friends. However, being an Outer, I’m at odds with my party on the EU, so am not sure how many helpful people will lobby me to try to change my mind, which I made up on the issue at least 40 years ago. Attend several interesting (aka contentious) meetings on Home Education, Animal Rights etc., and then book into a hotel for a swim. At 7pm there’s a two hour meeting of GP Political Committee, designed to keep all senior Greens updated. Then friends and G&Ts in the bar.

Saturday  Another swim and a convivial breakfast with assorted Greens. Get to the conference venue early to prepare to chair a long policy session where all members vote. It includes a new energy policy, which passes unanimously and a new animal rights policy which falls by a small margin after robust debate.

Sunday  A day off, to do almost nothing except nurse my hand as I’ve managed to bruise the radial nerve – very painful and limiting. Partner *very* supportive, with both tea and sympathy.

Monday  To City Hall. Hand no better, so sadly must drop out of an early morning tea run for homeless with the Simon Community in case I spill cups of hot tea, thus making everyone’s lives worse, rather than better. I used to go every week, but now manage less than once a month. It’s a chance to experience for myself the increasing number of homeless people, especially of working age. To the Lords, for Oral Questions and meetings, then at 6pm I host an event for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, a superb charity that has saved 140,000 lives since its foundation, at a cost of more than 600 lives lost in service.

Tuesday   The updated Investigatory Powers Bill is announced today, but on first skim, still full of dangerous flaws. Meetings, including with senior people from Network Rail to berate them for their mercenary attitude to businesses on their property whose community value they don’t understand. Then to the Lords to raise the distressing and cruel issue of the bulldozing of the Calais Camp, which I have visited twice. Appalling conditions, now made much worse. Aid agencies say that there are hundreds of unaccompanied children and are concerned that they will now be even more vulnerable to exploitation. Backed calls for the Government to devise an expedited process to take those minors who have family in the UK.