Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Two Baronesses and the Pope

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 25th April, 2007

ros-scott.gifthe-mall-galleries.jpgpope-benedict.jpgThe art of portraiture is alive and well, as witnessed by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, whose vernissage I attended this evening. I was particularly wanting to get to know the work of a relatively new acquaintance, Jane Bond (whose sensitive oil of Mrs Victoria Power I loved), and it was a pleasant surprise to discover that we have a mutual longstanding friend in the LibDem peer, Celia Thomas, who was also present, and clearly relishing her transition from running the LibDem Whips office in the Lords to being among the ermine clad herself, concentrating especially on welfare reform. Amongst the many memorable canvasses on show was Felicity Gill’s portrait of Boris Johnson, MP, looking wonderfully haywire, and a study of the newish Pontiff, Benedict XVI, by my fellow Garrick Club member Michael Noakes — reportedly the only painter for whom the Pope has sat. The exhibition runs until May 13.

I had to leave early to get to one of Kensington and Chelsea LibDems’ renowned ‘Food for Thought’ events, where another LibDem Baroness and friend, Ros Scott, underscored the importance of local government and community, on which the current government has a dismal record. Britain is the most centralised country in the European Union, apart from Malta. And by promoting the idea of more executive Mayors and powerful Lead Councillors, New Labour is undermining the foundations of local representation and accountability even more. However, one positive note that Ros sounded was the reminder that, bizarre and anachronistic as it is, the House of Lords — in which no single party has a majority — has often acted as a fierce scrutineer of goverment policies over the past decade, moderatng some of the worst excesses or prompting a rethink. It is to be hoped that whatever form Lords Reform takes, it does not emasculate the institution.



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