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Thriday V


To their eternal credit, they showed up. Come 5am, most of the Lords were sat in their seats, in fighting mood. We honestly thought the night would have exhausted them, if not killed them outright, but Baroness Someone (look, I'm new, I don't know most of them from a hole in the ground) had been inviting them all to a "pyjama party" at her house round the corner. A good few of them will have sloped off to hers for a glug of port, while a few more will have settled down for an interim snooze in their offices dotted about the building. And now here they all were, fiery-eyed and itching for a scrap.

Not that this could up the speed with which they actually move, though; I had plenty of time to duck out of the lobby when the vote was called. (They lock the doors, and then you can't leave the Chamber for eight minutes while they shuffle through to vote.) "Can you let me out before the rush starts?" I asked the doorkeeper in the 'No' lobby - on this occasion, the lobby for Lords supporting the government. "No bloody rush on this side, is there," he muttered as he unlocked the door for me to slip out. "Three-line whip and just 96 people. Pathetic."

And he was right. Endless Thursday has proved many things - that Blair is now a cast-iron liability; that Charles Clarke is probably an android; that Parliament shouldn't sit for 24 hours straight because by the end everyone will be drunk - but chief among them is the fact that you can't tell Peers what to do. On Wednesday night I passed David Davies on his mobile phone, bitterly bemoaning the fact that the Tory whips couldn't control their own people. An entirely elected chamber would probably have caved in the face of Blair's continuous "They're coming for us!" pronouncements. This bloody-minded lot saw him for what he was and stood their ground. Consequently, when he stumbles back into office later this year, expect their reform to be high on his to-do list. And, if this Bill is anything to go by, expect him to deal with it by casually spunking out some ill-considered nonsense on the back of a receipt and calling it The Law.

They've just sent some of us home. As the pattern of this session has now been set, with about four hours between sittings, and each sittng lasting about an hour, they'll be able to cope with a reduced staff working in shifts. Now I'm jet-lagged. Ronnie Scott's isn't still open, is it?

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