Interview Charlie Falconer: "Tony Blair Will Lead the Party into the Next Election on the Basis That He Will Run the Full Term," Says the PM's Confidant-in-Chief

By Kampfner, John | New Statesman (1996), May 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

Interview Charlie Falconer: "Tony Blair Will Lead the Party into the Next Election on the Basis That He Will Run the Full Term," Says the PM's Confidant-in-Chief


Kampfner, John, New Statesman (1996)


It can't be easy being Charlie Falconer. He is Scottish. He is unelected. And he is a close friend of Tony Blair's. Still, he wears his burdens lightly: "The way I have been judged in the past and will be judged in the future has not been on the basis of my nationality or my former flatmates," he says. As for being an appointed peer: "I accept it would be different if I were elected. But the job I am doing could not be done as an MP."

That job, of Lord Chancellor, he is determined to abolish. Despite a series of setbacks in recent months, Falconer insists constitutional reforms are proceeding, just at a slower pace. Abolition of the right to sit in parliament for the remaining 92 hereditary peers has been shelved while the government finally works on a coherent plan for the House of Lords. That is likely to revolve around an indirectly but wholly elected chamber.

The proposals will feature in Labour's next manifesto and will be given an early slot in the next parliamentary timetable. "The history of Lords reform is that it has always taken longer than people thought. You can rarely do major reform of a second chamber unless you do it at the beginning of a parliament." He appears less exercised about its composition than about the need to circumscribe its powers. No longer should a government's legislative programme "be determined by the amount of time it takes matters to get through the Lords".

Still, Falconer says lessons have been learned by the way ministers have tried to introduce change. Similar mistakes were made as he and Blair, almost overnight, hatched their plot to abolish the 1,400-year-old post of Lord Chancellor. Now that the Lords has forced him to lay out his plans in a special select committee, Falconer is doing his best to co-operate. He turns up dutifully twice a week to negotiate the details. The deal is that they reach an agreement by 24 June, and Falconer says he wants the legislation to have passed both houses by next February. A few months later the Lord Chancellor will be no more, a Judicial Appointments Commission will appoint a new Supreme Court, and the separation of executive and judiciary will be complete. Falconer himself will be plain old Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, with no wigs and no silly hats and eventually no woolsacks to sit on.

One of the concessions he is being forced to make is to give the commission more discretion and the government less in appointing judges. But he is adamant that all sides are now signed up to the principle of the changes, including Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, who disparaged the "cheerful chappie" for trying to steamroller the changes.

He deploys a classic Falconerism, a piece of linguistic jocularity to acknowledge a serious problem. "You can easily identify more seamless ways in which the original announcement could have been made." Since then, he says, he and Woolf have kissed and made up. Both, he says, are agreed on the need to increase the independence of judges. "We both believe it is not remotely defensible any more that you have a judge in the cabinet. We both agree it is not remotely defensible any more that a cabinet minister ought to be head of the judiciary."

The day job dealt with, I turn to Falconer's other purpose--presenting Blair's case. What, I wonder, is the current condition of the government? "Strong. Compare it with other governments seven years on. We are in a good condition. There will inevitably be people complaining about the decisions made, particularly [with] a government that is prepared to be bold and reformist, which we have been."

Bold and reformist might not be the adjectives that spring to everyone's mind, but--with comparisons with Margaret Thatcher in vogue--Falconer insists Blair has changed Britain more fundamentally than he is given credit for. "Put aside the myths, look at the overall texture of the country. It is now much, much more a country where people are saying, 'Yes, I now accept that the economy is doing well; yes, now I accept that the government is seeking to make the public services provide a reasonable standard for all. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Interview Charlie Falconer: "Tony Blair Will Lead the Party into the Next Election on the Basis That He Will Run the Full Term," Says the PM's Confidant-in-Chief
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.