Among the undead

Spent a couple of days in Parliament earlier this week, much of it sitting on a couch in the corner of the Peers’ lobby. I kept thinking that this was a room from which, a hundred years ago, two fifths of the world was governed. It was like a ruin that hadn’t fallen down yet. The doors are all proportioned so that even the tallest meople reach less that half way up them; the distant tops of the doors are only about a third of the way to the cieling. The effect is to make all the scurrying politicians, no matter how grand they be, as transient as a termite: all that matters is that the great mound endures. It has endured an extraordinary time — the current Bishop of Rochester is the 106th of his line; until the reformation, the Bishops and abbots actually formed a majority in the House of Lords.

Within the Lords, the junior ministers and their shadows, who were all women when I watched, perched rather fetchingly on the cushions in the centre of the chamber where the dispatch box should be. The eldest children of peers listen from the steps of the throne. At one stage a bald man, shaped like a stalk of asparagus, rose and asked a question in favour of nuclear power. It was a very good question, and I realised with atavistic horror that this was Norman Tebbit, still trampling on the grave of coal.

Other sightings included George Carey, who seemed to infest the place. Eileen, failing to recognise me, gave me a vague smile — this is a woman who banned the _Church Times_ from Lambeth Palace because of something I had written about her husband. Iain Duncan Smith, looking much thinner and happier than when people had to pretend he might become Prime Minister, loomed up behind us in the main lobby. For a moment I felt really sorry for him.

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