On Tuesday 23 February 2021, the John Smith Centre proudly hosted Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as part of our Power Hour series. 

Tanni Grey-Thompson is a multi-gold medal winning Paralympian and disability rights campaigner. She’s served in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer since 2010. The full 60 minute session is available in the Power Hours section of this website, but here’s a quick run down of the key moments.

1) Did the 2012 Olympics really transform attitudes to disability and sport?

There’s lots of reasons to remember the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games fondly, from the medal tally to that sense of togetherness and unity that sometimes only sport can deliver. Yet in this clip, Tanni says that as brilliant as they were, the games didn’t transform attitudes towards disability and sport. Not even nearly, and she’s got a surprise for the next person who dares to suggest otherwise.

2) Is Parliament family friendly?

Tanni reflects on life as a politician with a young family, describing why she had no choice but to bring her six year old daughter into the chamber of the House of Lords so that she could participate in a debate on welfare reform. She notes that so much more needs to be done to make Parliament family-friendly but also recognises that is the case across so many workplaces.

3) You don’t have to be in a political party to be a politician

Baroness Grey-Thompson always felt political and carried strong beliefs from a very young age, yet she never felt at home in one particular political party or indeed on one side of a political spectrum. It was the issues that motivated her to act and organise. In this clip she notes that whilst the House of Lords has many flaws, it does at least provide a space for people like her to make a difference.

4) The relationship between sport and politics

Tanni laughs at the idea that sport isn’t political when there’s literally a global league table for medal tallies and a history of sport being used as soft power. She brilliantly describes the relationship between the two and how she’s transitioned from one to the other throughout her life.

5) Positions of trust and the abuse of power

Tanni gives a really tangible example of how legislation can be used in sport, detailing the inappropriateness of a relationship between a sports coach and a 17 year old athlete. She describes how that is legal but why it’s wrong, detailing the campaign she’s leading across England and Wales just now to outlaw it in the future.

6) The impact of Covid 19 on disabled people

In this final and very powerful clip, Tanni describes the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people and how they’re perceived across society.

Everyone at the John Smith Centre is so grateful to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson for giving us not just an hour of her time, but such a frank insight into life in the House of Lords and the role of sport in wider society.