In Their Wisdom

I’m reading In Their Wisdom by CP Snow. In an early chapter a character says “… perhaps he needs his £6 10s.”

A footnote explains:
This conversation happened some months before the introduction of decimal coinage; later the Lords allowance was raised to £8.50.

So it must be set in 1970. The novel was published by Macmillan in 1974 when it cost £2.95 in hardback. Today the Lords’ allowance is £300 and a hardback can be bought for £20 or so. I can only conclude that publishers have got more efficient and Lords more expensive. I was interested to see that the parliamentary website publishes peers’ monthly expenses. The most recent is for January 2017.

Government ministers in the Upper House are usually, but not always, salaried and do not claim an allowance. The Opposition front bench must necessarily attend – consequently they earn their allowances. However, a cursory glance down the list shows some members attending every session and it would be interesting to know the extent of their contributions. You will also notice that quite a few Peers attend and decline to claim any allowance – well done, Lord Magan, for example.

It is a long time since I read anything by CP Snow. The only two I own are Corridors of Power and The Conscience of the Rich. It is a lot more approachable than I expected and I think I have been harsh in thinking him a bit of an old bore. Howeve, it went down well in 1974 – short-listed for the Booker. He has some insight into the workings of the House of Lords being created a Labour Life Peer in 1964.

His wife is another rather forgotten novelist, Pamela Hansford Johnson, whose books similarly I haven’t picked up for ages. I have The Unspeakable Skipton and Cork Street, Next to the Hatter’s on my shelf between Rider Haggard and Thomas Hardy.


2 thoughts on “In Their Wisdom”

  1. I think he was an old bore, but quite knowledgable of the ways of the world. I read Conscience years ago and even then recognised it as a period piece.

    1. I am only 2/3 of the way through In Their Wisdom and finding it hugely enjoyable. Many characters and things are still relevant. CPS had a friend in Margravine Gardens so it is no surprise that there are scenes in a terraced house “in the hinterland behind Talgarth Road” later identified as Beryl Road. He is a better story teller than I remembered.

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