Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Time for Lord Laird to retire

Sat 21 December 2013, 2:04pm

Discretion and tact have never been John Laird’s close friends. Good judgment has been a positive stranger.  Some of his causes like Ulster Scots were accompanied by a fair amount of indulgence, as all the world knew.  John was not part of the temperance wing of Unionism. Reviewing his artlessly revealing autobiography I described him as Ulster Unionism’s jester, a word  less open to misunderstanding than clown or  fool.  I stand by that.  Jesters or clowns are exaggerated performers who wallow in sentimentality and behind their knockabout lies a barely concealed sadness.  Among many others John will have embarrassed his fellow Ulsterman Robin Eames the former archbishop, who is a member of the House Standards Committee which has suspended him from the Lords for four months. Robin and I both were in the throng attending his book launch in the Lords.

I declare a small interest. He was once my neighbour in Belfast and a very good neighbour he was. Like many others I’ve enjoyed his generous hospitality and company. He’s a very hard man to dislike even by many who warily kept their distance.  But he never seemed able to make up his mind whether to be one of the club or a rebel, an exaggerated example perhaps of an Ulster Unionist out of his comfort zone. Even his contributions seemed like attention seeking. He asked nearly 300 written parliamentary questions last year   He was a minor rebel against the Lords’ residual stuffiness and a critic of others’ abuses. In the end he fell for abusing the protection and privilege he relied on to give him a platform.

To adapt Clement Attlee’s famous verdict on a gabby colleague, a very long period of silence from him would be welcome. The time has come for John Laird to lay aside his ermine and lead a quiet life, for the sake of what’s left of his reputation and his health.  It will be easier for his true friends to stick by him. Being a member of the House of Lords was beyond his measure and it went to his head.

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Comments (9)

  1. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    No more to be said really. He certainly ought to retire or resign or whatever it is that peers do when all integrity has been lost.

    That however does not mean that he will resign (or retire) and we might consider that one who was eager to so seedily abuse the privileges of the Upper House in return for cash would be loath to abandon the daily attendance allowance of £300 not to mention whatever other perks might accrue to a peer of the realm with interesting (read: profitable) connections.

    However, that said, let us hope that he does find the grace to go and salvage the respect that the better side of his character has earned.

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  2. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Even his contributions seemed like attention seeking. He asked nearly 300 written parliamentary questions last year”

    It’s good to see a parliamentarian asking questions; some of these come from concerned citizens. Better governance and less evasion could lead to fewer questions. For example, this short answer to a straightforward question took nine attempts!

    Lord Laird (UUP)
    To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Rathlin ferry MV “Canna” had a valid passenger certificate throughout September 2008.

    Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
    Further to my Answer of 29 June 2009 (Hansard, col. WA 23) the MV “Canna” did not hold a valid passenger certificate between 1 and 11 September 2008.

    We never thought of asking Robin Eames for assistance but as he only got three answers during the course of a year it might have been a waste of time.

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  3. Dec (profile) says:

    Why should he resign? Simply sit it out and then go back to taking taxpayers money to fund his lifestyle and sense of entitlement. The real issue is why this individual was ever ‘elevated’ in the first place.

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  4. lamhdearg (profile) says:

    we have convicted killers, bombers, gunrunners and pedo protectors residing in the various houses of power across the British isle’s, what harm another crook.

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  5. Nice to see you back commenting lamhdearg.

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  6. lamhdearg (profile) says:

    SSH!.

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  7. sherdy (profile) says:

    Brian, you say John asked 300 questions in the Lords in the past year. Is there any suggestion that there was any financial motive? No one would be surprised if it were so.
    You think maybe he should retire. With his reputation for chasing the money I think that is very unlikely.
    Jester or fool – nobody saw the funny side of being fleeced, and he made fools of the unionist population who followed or accepted him in his play-acting at extremism.

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  8. He didn’t actually take money, he just discussed it, which is why he got 4 months and the other Lord got 6 months.
    We all need a buffoon sometimes to relieve the tedium that usually goes with our politics.

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  9. SeaanUiNeill (profile) says:

    How very refreshing to see a House Standards Comittee that can actually come to a clear and rapid decision. I quote the Wikipedia article on Peter Robinson:

    “While the police investigation into the conduct of the Peter and Iris Robinson concluded in a recommendation not to prosecute in 2011, the Standards and Privileges enquiry has still not been completed three years after it was ordered by the Assembly, and remains ongoing.”

    But perhaps poor Laird is considered as not quite so indispensible as our First Minister…..

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