An apologetic Lord Falconer of Thoroton turned up nearly an hour late last week to give a keynote speech at City firm Norton Rose. He explained that he had been trapped in Television Centre after a broadcast interview was delayed.
Fortunately for the former lord chancellor, the event at Norton Rose was the Chartered Institute of Arbitration’s mediation symposium, so the room was full of very forgiving mediators, who had been happy to share their conciliatory war stories while they waited.
When he did arrive, Falconer waxed lyrical about the virtues of the discipline. Mediation, he said, is ‘the future’. As well as settling legal disputes between individuals or companies, he cited its role in resolving the troubles in Northern Ireland and South Africa, and described it as the only way to end the crisis in Syria.
Alas the one place he ruled it out is closer to home. Mediation, Falconer explained, cannot be deployed to end policy arguments between UK politicians – there is too little difference between the parties’ stances. With politics just a ‘beauty parade’ to win the next election, he said, there is nothing to mediate.
The noble lord has however found one exception: among his peers in the upper house of parliament. No thanks to political members, whom he characterised as ‘self-serving Labour peers’, ‘ghastly Tories’ and ‘even more ghastly Liberal Democrats’; but to cross-benchers, who are motivated by trying to find a way to move forward acceptable to all parties.
Well that’s a novel idea. Obiter understands that The Thick Of It’s Malcolm Tucker (pictured) will shortly be enjoying time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Perhaps he could use it to retrain as a mediator?