(Legislative) Bodies Between Their Knees*: The 2016 Parliamentary Boat Race

The eights that take part in the Parliamentary Boat Race are launched onto the Thames from next to the Secret Intelligence Services building at Vauxhall Bridge, using a slipway decorated with splendid lion’s heads such as this one.
The eights that take part in the Parliamentary Boat Race are launched onto the Thames from next to the Secret Intelligence Services building at Vauxhall Bridge, using a slipway decorated with splendid lion’s heads such as this one.

17 September 2016

Tim Koch writes:

I am not sure what the collective noun for a group of politicians is. Some cynical suggestions include ‘an equivocation’, ‘an odium’ and ‘a lie’. Whatever the correct term, in Britain, All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party associations that are composed of members of both the Upper and Lower Houses, the Lords and the Commons, who join together to pursue a particular topic or interest and who may involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. The list of APPGs ranges from Afghanistan to Zoroastrianism via Jazz Appreciation and Thrombosis.

pic-2The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rowing (APPGR) was recently re-established with Mark Ramsdale of MR Sport as the Honorary Secretary. The Group, comprising Members of both Houses of Parliament and non-Parliamentary Associate Members, has the aim ‘to support the sport of rowing both within Parliament and outside’ and it meets regularly when Parliament is sitting. It aims to encourage more people to get into rowing and to promote the sport to Parliament and the Government. Any individual, club, or other organisation, commercial or otherwise, may join the Group as an Associate Member. With the support of the International Sports Promotion Society, the APPGR holds an annual Lords v Commons rowing event, The Parliamentary Boat Race (PBR), to raise funds for charity.

In 2014, there was a Parliamentary Upset when the Commons managed to turn their eight over after the finish of that year’s PBR. All were promptly rescued and were voting in the House within the hour. After this, it was decided that future races should be in more stable craft.
In 2014, there was a Parliamentary Upset when the Commons managed to turn their eight over after the finish of that year’s PBR. All were promptly rescued and were voting in the House within the hour. After this, it was decided that future races should be in more stable craft.

This year, the tenth race in the series was held on 14 September over a 500-metre course between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges, finishing outside The Houses of Parliament. As well as the event between the Members of the House of Commons (MPs) and Members of the House of Lords (Peers) there was also a race between two teams from London Youth Rowing (using the same cutters as the Parliamentarians) plus contests between two invited men’s eights (this year, London and Molesey) and two invited women’s eights (this year, Thames and Molesey).

The Thames Rowing Club women’s eight goes afloat in the shadow of the slightly Kafkaesque headquarters of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services (‘MI6’).
The Thames Rowing Club women’s eight goes afloat in the shadow of the slightly Kafkaesque headquarters of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services (‘MI6’).
Eights on the foreshore with Lambeth Bridge and Parliament in the background.
Eights on the foreshore with Lambeth Bridge and Parliament in the background.
The Parliamentarians and the London Youth rowers used these copies of the boats that took part in the first Oxford - Cambridge Boat Race in 1829. They were built in 2004 by Mark Edwards, the traditional boat builder based in Richmond, Surrey.
The Parliamentarians and the London Youth rowers used these copies of the boats that took part in the first Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race in 1829. They were built in 2004 by Mark Edwards, the traditional boat builder based in Richmond, Surrey.
On their way to the start, London Youth Rowing ‘Yellow’.
On their way to the start, London Youth Rowing ‘Yellow’.London Youth Rowing ‘Blue’. London Youth Rowing ‘Blue’.

The women’s race, a few strokes off the start, goes through Lambeth Bridge. Thames is nearest the camera, Molesey is furthest away. The women’s race, a few strokes off the start, goes through Lambeth Bridge. Thames is nearest the camera, Molesey is furthest away.

Molesey were the eventual victors.
Molesey were the eventual victors.
The defeated Thames crew heads for the temporary pontoon moored outside Parliament. Note that if a boat got this close to Parliament in normal circumstances, people with guns would want to know why.
The defeated Thames crew heads for the temporary pontoon moored outside Parliament: note that if a boat got this close to Parliament in normal circumstances, people with guns would want to know why.
From the terrace of the House of Lords, Doggett’s men Harry McCarthy (left) and Merlin Dwan (right), resplendent in their scarlet costumes, observe the return of the Molesey women.
From the terrace of the House of Lords, Doggett’s men Harry McCarthy (left) and Merlin Dwan (right), resplendent in their scarlet costumes, observe the return of the Molesey women.In the men’s race, Molesey Boat Club were again the winners, defeating their rivals from London Rowing Club. In the men’s race, Molesey Boat Club were again the winners, defeating their rivals from London Rowing Club.Watched by the Lord’s crew (in red), the Commons crew (in green) goes afloat from Black Rod’s Steps. ‘Black Rod’ is, in theory, responsible for maintaining the buildings, services, and security of Parliament. His steps are a reminder of the time when travelling by river was faster, safer and more comfortable than attempting to use the unsatisfactory roads. Watched by the Lord’s crew (in red), the Commons crew (in green) goes afloat from Black Rod’s Steps. ‘Black Rod’ is, in theory, responsible for maintaining the buildings, services, and security of Parliament. His steps are a reminder of the time when travelling by river was faster, safer and more comfortable than attempting to use the unsatisfactory roads.The Lords row to the start. The Lords row to the start.
pic-16
Fortunately, the ‘Storm Relief Sewer’ indicated by the sign was not operational on race day (though the Commons crew would have had much experience of having floods of excrement directed at themselves).
On the start, outside Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On the start, outside Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The House of Commons crew, in green, not in seating order:

Chris Bryant MP (Labour, Rhondda), Karl McCartney MP (Conservative, Lincoln), Alan Foster(APPGR Hon Life Member), Sir Edward Leigh MP (Conservative, Gainsborough), Gavin Newlands MP (Scottish Nationalist Party, Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Dr Matthew Offord MP (Conservative, Hendon), Toby Perkins MP (Labour, Chesterfield), John Stevenson MP (Conservative, Carlisle).

The House of Lords crew, in red, not in seating order:

Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrat), Lord Paddick (Liberal Democrat), Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat), Lord St John of Bletso (Cross Bencher), Lord Redesdale (Liberal Democrat), Viscount Goschen (Conservative), Lord Faulks (Conservative), Lord Bilimoria (Cross Bencher).

Their Lordships had a little trouble during the race. As their crew contained a disproportionate number of Liberal Democrats, campaigners for ‘proportional representation, perhaps they were unhappy with a race decided on the ‘first past the post’ system.
Their Lordships had a little trouble during the race. As their crew contained a disproportionate number of Liberal Democrats, campaigners for ‘proportional representation’, perhaps they were unhappy with a race decided on the ‘first past the post’ system.
The younger and (relatively) fitter MPs settled into a reasonable rhythm.
The younger and (relatively) fitter MPs settled into a reasonable rhythm.
The win by the Commons means that they now lead the Lords by six victories to four.
The win by the Commons means that they now lead the Lords by six victories to four.
The Commons boat returns.
The Commons boat returns.
The Lords and the iconic clock tower popularly known as ‘Big Ben’.
The Lords and the iconic clock tower popularly known as ‘Big Ben’.
The Peers acknowledge the cheers of their peers – and others.
The Peers acknowledge the cheers of their peers – and others.

Their Lordships were perhaps hampered by the 1999 Act of Parliament which virtually abolished the right of hereditary peers to sit in the Lords. Many of those aristocrats who were victims of this End of the Peer Show would have attended the rowing academy known as Eton in the days when the school gave brawn precedent over brain and Noël Coward could write the lyrics, ‘We know how Caesar conquered Gaul and how to whack a cricket ball. Apart from this, our education lacks co-ordination’.

At the conclusion of racing, rowers, officials, sponsors and supporters retired to the Lords for the prize-giving and for afternoon tea.
At the conclusion of racing, rowers, officials, sponsors and supporters retired to the Lords for the prize-giving and for afternoon tea.
The terrace of the House of Lords.
The terrace of the House of Lords.
The leader of the victorious Commons team, Dr Matthew Offord MP, accepts the race trophy from Midori Miyazaki, a representative of Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of the International Sports Promotion Society, sponsor of the Parliamentary Boat Race.
The leader of the victorious Commons team, Dr Matthew Offord MP, accepts the race trophy from Midori Miyazaki, a representative of Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of the International Sports Promotion Society, sponsor of the Parliamentary Boat Race.

The Parliamentary Rowing Group has renamed the race trophy as the Robin Hulf Memorial Cup. This is in recognition of the role played by the Group’s inaugural Honorary Secretary, the late Robin Hulf, his support of the APPGR and his oversight of the Parliamentary Boat Race since the Group’s inception. Lord Gresford, one of the few to have rowed in every Parliamentary Boat Race, said, ‘Robin was a fantastic individual. His passion for rowing was second-to-none and with the Parliamentary Boat Race he brought to bear his innate talent in organising what is a very challenging event. In so doing, the Parliamentary Rowing Group has raised a great deal of money for charity and we are grateful for all his dedicated hard work’.

The leader of the Lord’s team, Lord Thomas of Gresford (right) presents the Master of the Watermen’s Company, John Salter, with a cheque for £2,500 for the Company’s charities. A similar amount was given to London Youth Rowing and £5,000 went to the Matt Hampson Foundation, http://matthampsonfoundation.org/ a charity whose aim is ‘to provide advice, support, relief and/or treatment for anyone suffering serious injury or disability which has arisen from any cause, but in particular from participation in or training for any sport, sporting activity or other form of physical education or recreation’.
The leader of the Lord’s team, Lord Thomas of Gresford (right) presents the Master of the Watermen’s Company, John Salter, with a cheque for £2,500 for the Company’s charities. A similar amount was given to London Youth Rowing and £5,000 went to the Matt Hampson Foundation, a charity whose aim is ‘to provide advice, support, relief and/or treatment for anyone suffering serious injury or disability which has arisen from any cause, but in particular from participation in or training for any sport, sporting activity or other form of physical education or recreation’.

The day before the PBR, the APPGR and British Rowing took part in the Parliamentary Sports Fair in the Palace of Westminster and provided an opportunity for MPs and Peers to find out more about grassroots rowing. The event was organised by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, as part of their #GetYourKitOn campaign to encourage Members of Parliament to support community sport and recreation.

Olympic Silver Medalist 1: Lord Moynihan.
Olympic Silver Medalist 1: Lord Moynihan.

As Colin Moynihan, Baron Moynihan won a Silver Medal coxing the British men’s eight at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. During the race, the rudder cables broke and he had to reach behind him to grasp the rudder bar. He did this so well, that most of the crew did not realise what had happened. He is a ‘double Blue’, having coxed Oxford to victory in the 1977 Boat Race and boxed against Cambridge as a bantamweight. I asked him why he had not coxed his fellow Peers (tautology?) in the PBR and he gave the slightly unconvincing answer that he was now overweight for coxing.

Olympic Silver Medalist 2: Vicky Thornley, who, together with Katherine Grainger, narrowly missed out on a Gold in the women’s double sculls in the Rio Olympics.
Olympic Silver Medalist 2: Vicky Thornley, who, together with Katherine Grainger, narrowly missed out on a Gold in the women’s double sculls in the Rio Olympics.
The 2016 Parliamentary Boat Race over, the two crews pose for a quick photograph before they return to either running the country or to suggesting how it could be run better. Perhaps it is possible that government, like rowing, is more difficult than it looks…..?
The 2016 Parliamentary Boat Race over, the two crews pose for a quick photograph before they return to either running the country or to suggesting how it could be run better. Perhaps it is possible that government, like rowing, is more difficult than it looks…..?

A video of the race made by the BBC’s Daily Politics show is on the APPGR Twitter account. https://twitter.com/ParliamentRow

*Bodies Between Their Knees

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