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.”;

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam