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.

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-finance-office/2016-17/allowances-expenses-2016-17-month-10-january.pdf

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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