Conduct of Debate in Public Life - Motion to Regret

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:42 pm on 9th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 4:42 pm, 9th May 2019

My Lords, it is customary on these occasions to say how grateful you are to everyone who contributed. I suspect that that is sometimes formulaic, but it has been a debate of profound content. Like my noble friend Lady Morris, I have gained something, learned something and been provoked into thinking about something by every single contribution we have heard. I am also grateful to the Minister for a response that at least attempted to cover the enormous breadth of issues raised during our discussion. He did so with his usual urbanity, courtesy and all the values that we have said are so important in our public life.

I want to make it clear that I brought forward this debate not because I think the problems we face are new. I very much take the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley. The first death threat I received as a public figure was almost 30 years ago. It was scrawled on the front of my house in black paint, and it was quite clear what the intent was. At the time, the police duly took a little note of it. A chief constable saw a photograph of it recently and said, “Oh, we’d take that very seriously these days”. I am sure that is very reassuring. The point is that this is not a new phenomenon, but the consensus from every speaker has been that it has got significantly worse and significantly more serious in recent years.

I think a consensus emerged that we want to see strong leadership—I prefer the word “better”—to confront and deal with these issues. Unfortunately, strong leadership begins to sound like the strong man or the strong woman; that is the antithesis of what we are looking for. But we do want leadership, and people who are prepared to build consensus and confront the unacceptable, rather than pretend it is not there or ignore it. The overwhelming feeling I got from the contributions today was that we cannot allow this to drift, because the drift could lead us to a very unacceptable and frightening place. Given the unanimity that has been expressed today, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.