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Baroness Tanni shares life as a dame

Students were given an insight into the House of Lords when one of the region’s peers lifted the lid on life as a dame.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson revealed that the upper house is sometimes like Hogwarts, sometimes a bit boring but mostly exciting, interesting and challenging.

The multi-gold medal winning Paralympian who became paralysed at the aged of seven said: “In the Lords anyone who wants to speak can speak; it’s powerful to have that freedom to say what you think.”

Dame Tanni, who studied politics at university and sits as a cross-bench independent, said the Lords was more diverse than the Commons.

There has been a move in the last ten years to bring in younger people, more women, more disabled people, more black and minority ethnic people and representatives of all religions. But you have to have finished your career to become a Lord because we don’t get a salary, so the average age of entering is still 69,” she explained.

Although she had no plans to enter politics, she is considered an authority on the issues that interest her most – sport, disability and Legal Aid.

Anybody anywhere can write to me on those issues because we aren’t geographical like MPs. I am still expected to work and be an expert on sport and to bring that knowledge to the chamber. If there is a debate on sport I have to be there.

“Our job is only to say to the government ‘are you really sure about this?’ We are not there to run the country but we are there to check and challenge the government.

“Sometimes you want to grill a minister and sometimes you want a really good quality answer so you tell them your questions in advance so they have time to prepare,” she revealed.

The chance to take part in debates only comes with being there and Dame Tanni said she spends up to four days a week in Westminster with debates sometimes lasting for 12 hours and into the night.

She added:

It’s an amazing building to work in and the protocols and unwritten rules make it really interesting. You’re not allowed to die in the Palace of Westminster because it would qualify you for a state funeral and you’re not allowed to stand still on the blue carpet.”

Politics teacher at The King’s Academy Jenni Yuill said:

Baroness Grey-Thompson has achieved a great deal in her life from politics to sport to campaigning for the disabled. It was an honour to welcome her to The King’s Academy and to hear her perspective on the House of Lords.”