Andy McSmith's Diary: Does filibustering do anything for Parliament's reputation? Discuss at length

Our man in Westminster

Filibustering is heroic, if you happen to agree with the person doing it. It takes obstinacy, verbal skill, and stamina.

The Texas Senator Wendy Davis won so much kudos for talking non-stop for 11 hours last June to prevent an anti-abortion bill going through the state legislature that she has attracted $1.2m (£770,000) worth of political donations in the past month alone.

On this side of the Atlantic, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was fuming after Labour peers spent 33 hours in January 2011 arguing over just eight out of 80 proposed amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill that was going to cut the size of the House of Commons. The same ruse has been put to good use from time to time in the House of Commons. In 2007, a former Tory chief whip, David Maclean, introduced a Private Member's Bill that was intended to prevent the Freedom of Information Act from applying to Parliament.

Two Liberal Democrat MPs, Simon Hughes and Norman Baker, spent five hours arguing about the detail in a bid to stop it going any further.

In 1989, Labour's Dennis Skinner spoke for hours on whether to move the writ for a by-election, to prevent Ann Widdecombe introducing a bill that would have restricted abortion.

Such tactics may be admirable in their own way, but do they do anything for the reputation of Parliament? The cross-party Procedure Committee thinks not, because rarely can they be successfully used to stop the Government getting legislation on to the statute books.

They are much more commonly used against bills that backbench MPs are trying to introduce. The committee, chaired by the Tory MP Charles Walker, is demanding a change in the rules so that the Commons business managers can impose a timetable on debates about Private Member's Bills.

Even if the committee gets its way, that will not help James Wharton, the youngish Tory MP who has a Private Member's Bill that would force the Government to hold a referendum on whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU, because any rule change would have to be delayed until next year.

English as it is organised – but not spoken

As if frustrated that there will be no British bombers flying over Damascus, the Blairite wing of the Labour Party launched a strike yesterday against the English language.

Rachel Reeves, a Shadow cabinet star tipped as a future Labour leader, is just back from maternity leave, and has agreed to be guest speaker at an event at Labour's autumn conference organised by Movement for Change.

That organisation, which emerged out of David Miliband's ill-starred 2010 leadership campaign, is described by its acting head, Mike Kane, as “a place of people coming together to make change happen”.

The movement took to Twitter to publicise its upcoming meeting, with a graphic that included a quotation from Reeves – “Organising around Living Wage is a policy development that is linked to the lives of ordinary people” – but not linked at all to ordinary speech.

Ukip's credit for Middle East peace

What drove Barack Obama to refer the decision on striking Syria to Congress? What was the real explanation for the Government's parliamentary defeat last week?

The surprising answer to both questions is personified in that international colossus and latter-day peacenik, Nigel Farage.

My source for this startling revelation is Henry Reilly, above, a Ukip member of Newry and Mourne district council who will also be a candidate for Northern Ireland in next year's Euro election. He said, via Twitter: “Proud of Ukip – stopped UK bombing Syria and prompted US Congress to consider democracy – Ukip, the only real opposition – think Ukip – peace.”

More or less clear on energy merits

I notice that an item went up on The Carbon Brief website at the weekend, under the headline “Shale gas: more or less polluting than coal?” which discusses the issue without arriving at a definitive conclusion. It reminds me of a paper issued a couple of years ago by the Policy Exchange think-tank called: “Gas Works? Shale gas and its policy implications.” It was written by Simon Moore, and edited by Simon Less, which answers the question, sort of.

Ireland's other prophetic poet

Seamus Heaney, who was buried in Dublin yesterday, was described by the BBC as “the best-known Irish poet since Yeats”. Possibly, but today is the 50th anniversary of the death of another Irish poet of some distinction.

Louis MacNeice was never quite as famous as Heaney, but did compose lines which aptly sum up the ongoing debate on Syria: “The argument was wilful,/ The alternatives untrue,/ We need no metaphysics/ To sanction what we do/ Or to muffle us in comfort/ From what we did not do.”

a.mcsmith@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@andymcsmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea