Lords Talk About Talk

Wednesday 17th June 1936



The House of Lords was treated to a real debate although it was a debate about debating rather than any great political issue. Lord Crawford had tabled a motion deploring the tendency of members merely to read out pre-prepared speeches. His campaign for real rhetoric had the better of the discussion. His chief opponent Lord Snell, Labour don and briefly minister, scored a series of own goals. He admitted that ministers were often "departmental parrots" and needed to recite facts correctly, a powerful deterrent to turning up in the Chamber to listen to him in future. He also seemed to suggest weirdly that the victims of the Spanish Inquisition would have benefited from being able to respond to interrogation from notes. Equally strangely he argued that speeches read out were audible in a way that those declaimed weren't.

Snell quite surpassed himself with the quite irrelevant observation that organized silenced by members was enough to defeat the speaking talents of even Winston Churchill. Churchill in reality could have been hijacked to support either side. He spoke without notes but learned prepared speeches by heart.

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