Author Archives: Paul Tyler

Lord Paul Tyler writes…Effective opposition?

While most of the unusual attention paid to the House of Lords this week focused on for the important tax-credit debates on Monday – in which Labour failed to support us in killing off Osborne’s cuts – there was another ‘fatal motion’ in my name the following day.

With support from Tom Brake, Chris Rennard, William Wallace and Tony Greaves, I moved to stop the Conservatives deleting 1.9 million entries from the electoral register, against the express advice of the Electoral Commission .  The Government is dead set on ending the transitionary period – carefully negotiated in the Coalition – for the change from household to individual electoral registration.

By using an order-making power to bring forward the end-date for the transition, the Government calculates that the 2016 boundary review will produce fewer urban, Conservative-hostile constituencies because most of the people they are taking off are in densely populated areas. In Hackney, 23% will be deleted.

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Lord (Paul) Tyler writes…Government is playing a dangerous game by resisting democratic reform of the Lords


This week the House of Lords is set to do one of the things it loves most: talking about itself. How wonderful it is; how learned are its members, but how beastly it is that anyone new is ever placed here. We will hear many wise heads opine that the Prime Minister is guilty of a gross abuse of process in appointing new peers this year, and that he is making the place “unsustainable”.  We will hear over and over that the “reputation of the House” is under threat. Some Peers seem to imagine that the public would view as entirely peachy an unelected chamber of Parliament predicated on patronage, just as long as only those who have already been appointed are the only ones ever allowed in.

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Paul Tyler writes…Lessons for our new campaigner-in-chief?

I was lucky enough to be invited to a symposium of academics, pollsters and (a very few) politicians this week at Nuffield College on “Beyond General Election 2015”. It was sponsored by the British Election Study, which takes an in depth look at the voting behaviour and motivations of a 30,000 strong sample.

The discussion was held under the Chatham House rule, so I cannot disclose who said what, but here are some themes.

The incumbency factor for sitting Liberal Democrat MPs seems to have been worth some 11%+ on the national vote share. Our 334 lost deposits are very troubling but these figures do show that without fairly ruthless (some might say not ruthless enough) targeting, we could not have maximised what little advantage we had.

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

Cities and Local Government Bill report back

The Government’s plan to impose Mayors where they were previously rejected is progressing apace in Parliament. Fairly unusually for a controversial Bill, it has started out in the Lords.

Our Lib Dem team, led by John Shipley, is seeking to make three campaigning points about the Bill. First, that if areas are to have powerful Mayors imposed upon them, these should be scrutinised by directly elected assemblies, as in London. Secondly, that all of local government should be elected by STV, ending modern rotten Boroughs. Thirdly, that the franchise for these (and all other) elections should be expanded to include 16 and 17 year olds.

Posted in News and Parliament | 6 Comments

Lord Paul Tyler writes…Tackling the Tory Democratic Deficit

The advent of a Conservative government might once have meant no reform at all to our political system.  However, David Cameron is almost accidentally opening the door to a review of party funding regime, the electoral system and the procedures of the House of Commons.  During the Queen’s Speech debates, the Lib Dem team in the Lords has been tackling all three issues.

The Government wants to dry up some of the money available to Labour by placing restrictions on trade union funding.  The principle that trade union members should consent to their subscriptions funding a political party is quite right.  Yet it will be totally unbalanced to introduce that reform without something on the other side of the ledger, namely a cap on the large individual donations which fund the party arms race in spending.

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Paul Tyler writes… Devolution: Who’s next?

The eagle-eyed among LDV readers may have noticed last week good coverage for Nick Clegg’s trip to Cornwall on St Piran’s Day. As well as the usual round of school and business visits, Nick took the opportunity to publish a joint article on Cornish devolution with local Lib Dem Council Leader, Cllr Jeremy Rowe. For some reason the local papers, which published it, haven’t put it online, so here’s a link to it on my own website.

For the first time, Jeremy and Nick spell out how Cornwall could use the Lib Dems’ proposed Devolution Enabling Act to form a Cornish Assembly, with powers over housing, education, health and public transport. They write:

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Devolution Dialogue on Democracy Day

Today is “Democracy Day”, a project running across BBC TV and Radio.  It’s fitting that in this same week, Nick Harvey and I have published proposals to bring decisions closer to those whom they affect: a prerequisite for real democracy in Britain.

Here on Liberal Democrat Voice, we have already had considerable debate over the merit of “devolution on demand” as compared to a big-bang, devolution-everywhere-now solution.  My views are well rehearsed!

However, the benefit of the CentreForum Devolution Dialogue in which Nick and I set out our alternative positions is that it brought us together in a greater measure of consensus than we …

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Paul Tyler writes… In defence of piecemeal

For years Liberal Democrats have made the case for comprehensive reform of our constitution. We seek a fully federal settlement for the United Kingdom; constitutionally guaranteed decentralisation; fair votes; a democratic second chamber; prerogative power curbed other than as expressly given by Parliament; inalienable human rights.

Across the parties, many of us signed up 26 years ago to Charter 88 to realise a full package of these aims. The Charter itself lamented that existing British “constitution…encourages a piecemeal approach to politics”. It called for a comprehensive new settlement.

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Paul Tyler writes… Voter engagement and Votes at 16: progress!

Today, the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee is doing something I don’t recall any other Committee doing before it. It is publishing a report in draft, and asking for public feedback before making final recommendations.

In announcing this initiative Graham Allen, the Committee’s Chair, writes, “we raise issues around re-building our political parties, their funding, conduct of MPs, how the Media can work to improve public involvement, and how we can restore a sense of excite around our democracy”. These are all clearly crucial issues for Liberal Democrats.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Farce in the Lords

Any interested fellow citizen who was told how the latest recruit to their Parliament was chosen would be first baffled, then outraged.  Is it any wonder that there are more electors who favour the complete abolition of the House of Lords than support retention of the existing arrangements?

The provisions for the replacement of one of our hereditary Peers, when deceased, are confusing, complicated and downright contradictory.

The latest election result, announced by the Lord Speaker on Wednesday afternoon, may seem to be relatively simple:  our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister.  He was chosen in an AV election, but gained 50%+ on the first count, so no reallocation of the votes of lower scoring candidates was required.

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Paul Tyler writes… Pledge in haste, repent at leisure

Union FlagHaving the scars on my back from attempts to reform the Lords, I know how inclined people are to declare constitutional reform ‘not thought through’. In the case of Lords Reform, this was patently ridiculous since introducing elections to the House has been the subject of more self-interested cogitation and political procrastination than just about any other subject.

Proposals for “devo-max” to Scotland are not ill-considered either. Our own redoubtable Menzies Campbell has produced two formidable reports on “Home Rule All Round”, setting out a federal future for the UK. Lord Strathclyde has produced a not dissimilar report on the subject for the Conservatives. Labour have their own similar (though moderately less ambitious) proposals. Even arch anti-devolutionist Michael Forsyth told the BBC he favours a federal solution now!

photo by: mrs.timpers
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Paul Tyler writes … English Devolution:  we’re working on it!


I’m glad to see Lib Dem bloggers thinking aloud about devolution in England.

In particular, this very concise piece by Nick Barlow on his blog is excellent, though neither it nor Matthew Green’s rather more critical tone, or even Stephen Tall’s, reflect the fact that the Party has already been thinking, developed proposals and had them endorsed by members at conference.  We are ahead of the game and should say so!

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Progress in Magna Carta’s Birthday year

Magna Carta by EteeIn a week when the big news is about changed faces in government, there is also much manoeuvring in the political undergrowth about the rules which govern government:  our constitution.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform (P&CR) has launched a debate on a written constitution for the United Kingdom.  This has been a Liberal and Liberal Democrat objective for all my time in politics, but the question has always been how such a document would be drawn up, agreed and entrenched beyond the usual …

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…A fairer way of redrawing constituency boundaries

Boundary - Some rights reserved by ank0kuIn those heady 5 Days in May back in 2010, our negotiators agreed with the Conservative Party that there should be “fewer, more equal” constituencies returning MPs to the House of Commons.  It formed part of a package, coupled with the referendum on Alternative Vote, and placed alongside fixed-term Parliaments (delivered), greater localism (partially delivered), and House of Lords reform (not delivered).

Whatever your views on whether there should be fewer MPs, more, or just the same as now, the principle that parliamentary constituencies should contain …

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Paul Tyler writes…What Acts do we need to reconsider?

Parliament ActsYesterday, I spoke in the House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech.  There has been much made of how ‘light’ the legislative programme is, even if it still contains more than one bill a month for the coming session and carries over five (including the gargantuan HS2 Bill) from the last session.

However, I challenged colleagues to consider – if we really are so short of work to do – which Bills from early in this Parliament we might usefully subject to “post-legislative scrutiny”:

photo by: -JvL-
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Lord (Paul) Tyler writes… Transparency Bill – Government concessions

Yesterday Lords amendments came to the Commons for consideration. The Government has accepted the principle of my amendment on including Special Advisers (SpAds) in the regime of transparency about who lobbyists get to meet in government. However, the Conservative Party refuses to ‘switch on’ this provision at this stage, and probably for the duration of this Parliament.

The Government therefore brought forward an amendment which will allow Ministers to bring those who meet SpAds into the register of lobbyists, but they will remain out for now. David Cameron says ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’. Since two of the big lobbying scandals …

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: An update on the Lobbying bill

The Government’s Transparency Bill is nearly complete.  It is a very different Bill from that introduced to the House of Commons in the autumn.  Full marks to Tom Brake who, while robustly rebuffing the more hysterical accusations about the Bill, has listened, and worked hard inside government to secure a sensible package of improvements.  The first was in the House of Commons, where MPs voted to ensure the definition of non-party campaigning remained the same as for the last thirteen years.  If this were a ‘gagging law’, then so too was Labour’s PPERA of 2000.

In the Lords, we have concentrated …

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Paul Tyler writes… Transparency not gagging

I have spent much of the last week meeting with NGOs to discuss the Transparency Bill, in advance of the first debate on it in the Lords today.  It’s striking that only the most strident can now use the term “gagging bill” with a straight face, and I think even they now realise that the Bill is nothing of the sort.

Readers of Lib Dem Voice, more than most, are well used to accounting for spending in elections.  For the parties, it is clear that their purpose in life is to influence election outcomes.  Candidates and agents have accepted the need …

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Buying votes – Lord Tyler on the Lobbying Bill

Big Ben £Concerted non-party campaigns now weave more citizens together than the parties can dream of, and raise a lot of money in the process. They do so not with intensely political ‘values’, but with a chance to pit ‘the people’ against ‘the politicians’ on a given issue. For better or worse, this has a broader appeal than the starkly partisan campaigning we are used to.

The challenge Parliament has to deal with is what all this means for elections, in which non-party groups may increasingly express a preference for one party, or even a group of parties, over the others. Whether it is a group of farmers and rural residents coming together in an association, or a trade union, or a big email list of broadly left-wing people, it is only right and natural that together such organisations should be able to say whom they most support to defend their views and interests. The question is whether the wealthier organisations – or even maverick millionaires – should be able to drown out the poorer ones. I strongly believe they should not.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Lobbying bill is a major and unexpected advance

Today, the Government published its Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration BillIt marks a major and rather unexpected advance on the position only a couple of months ago.

As the Bill goes through Parliament, we will be arguing that the new information it brings into the public domain must be coupled with much better access to the information which the Coalition has already published.  This Government is the first to proactively publish information on who ministers meet.  Yet at the moment the information is too difficult to find, and not much use when you find …

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Never on a Sunday?

Some little Englander MPs, as we know, are incredibly jumpy about anything they think might have come from Europe.  The latest in the line of Brussels bogeymen is the worrying advent of public activity at the weekend, which could – they say – cause all kinds of terrible problems.

The British Social Attitudes survey (not the dangerous ‘Eurobarometer’) has found that 45.7% of the public regard themselves as belonging to ‘no religion’.  Of those who do profess some faith, 57.5% say they ‘never or practically never’ attend meetings or services connected to their religion.  A further 20% say they do …

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Paul Tyler writes….There can be no party funding consensus without compromise

This week’s revelations about MPs and Peers profiting from their seats in Parliament has been a catalyst to get the political reform agenda going again, though Alexander Ehmann is quite right to say that these stories were not a “lobbying” scandal as such.  No lobbyist worth their salt (or their fee) would seriously approach a parliamentarian offering ready cash.  Only journalists would do that, exposing their targets as greedy and stupid in equal measure.  The parliamentarians concerned – it would appear – have broken the rules which already exist.  And if they have sinned, it looks like a case …

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Lord (Paul) Tyler writes: Political reform has been lost along the way by the Coalition

Houses of ParliamentI first spoke in a Queen’s Speech debate in March 1974. I recall being mystified by that vital penultimate sentence heard again in this year’s speech: “other measures will be laid before you”. It is these innocent, innocuous words which turn out to be quite important. And they give hope that there will be other vital measures excluded at present from the text of the Speech itself.

There are two commitments in the party manifestos and the Coalition Agreement that seem to have been lost along the …

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Paul Tyler writes: What would Keynes do?

Amidst all the sound and fury (from the Conservative benches), about the delay in implementing boundary changes, agreed by a substantial majority in the Lords last Monday evening, one important argument seems to have got lost.

When Labour left office in May 2010, we were given to understand that the electoral register was some 92% complete.  Parliament decided in the discussions on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill that this was a sufficiently robust basis for the redrawing of constituencies along strict arithmetic lines.

Subsequently, research by the Electoral Commission established that it was nothing like as complete.  Nationally, the figure …

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Paul Tyler writes: Progress postponed

There was no talk this year of banning champagne at the Conservative Party Conference. Perhaps there was no danger of exuberance among delegates. As recalcitrant Tories sought one-in-the-eye against Nick Clegg by erasing Lords Reform from the Coalition Agreement, their party’s treasured redrawing of the UK electoral map was duly jettisoned too. Without a stronger second chamber to challenge the executive, it would have been wrong to reduce the size of the House of Commons, thereby increasing the proportionate dominance of the government’s ‘payroll’ within it.

Clearly, the failure of the most comprehensive attempt to reform the composition of the Lords …

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Paul Tyler writes… Conservative crisis, Labour leaderless

It’s a good job I’m not a betting man, having said here in July “my bets are strongly against the Government giving up at this point”.  But now we know:  David Cameron’s authority within the Conservative Party is so weak that he cannot even persuade his MPs to support an agreed manifesto commitment, and a Bill unanimously supported by his Cabinet.  Cameron and Osborne voted for the 80% elected component as long ago as 2003, yet this summer their right-wing backbenchers simply would not accept elections at all.

Unsurprisingly, concern for future of their own constituencies – as boundary changes …

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Paul Tyler writes: A victory for democracy?

Doubtless some peers now believe that they can go off for the long summer recess, secure in the knowledge that the status quo in the House of Lords is preserved.  The thought of a shake-up is so uncomfortable for some inhabitants that they have resorted to calling the Coalition’s House of Lords Reform Bill ‘rushed’, despite its genesis in over a decade of cross-party discussion, and a hundred years of gestation.  Yet after subjecting the legislation to a painstaking Joint Committee, which met thirty times to take evidence from almost everyone who has ever thought about the subject, my bets …

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Lord Tyler writes… Only the Government’s Bill can take the hereditary principle out of Parliament

There has for some years been a conceit in the House of Lords that the place could gain stature and authority simply by doing a bit of tidying up at the edges, and by ending the hereditary principle. There has been a further conceit that this work can be done without controversy or delay.

Our own David Steel has been a doughty proponent of this approach, as a logical precursor to more comprehensive reform. Last Friday, he gave Peers their best opportunity ever to prove that it could work.

Yet the Lords showed itself resistant even to the modest changes on offer. …

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Paul Tyler writes… Second chamber must have more members than the government proposes

Happy New Year. As all the political ‘look back at 2011’ newspaper supplements make their way to the recycling bin, I am risking a bold prediction that their ‘look back at 2012’ successors will report the first serious attempt by any Government to introduce elections to the House of Lords.

When David Cameron and Nick Clegg published their draft Bill back in May last year, the reaction was predictable. Snorts of derision from the refuseniks, cavilling about detail, accusations of plain stupidity. You know when people are losing an argument if they claim that those who disagree simply …

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Paul Tyler writes… A manual for Coalition?

Dr Andrew Blick, a Senior Research Fellow at Democratic Audit, and Lord (Peter) Hennessy have co-authored a new report called The Hidden Wiring Emerges. (It provides the best and most comprehensive analysis yet of the Coalition’s draft Cabinet Manual, published in December 2010.

The whole document – and the whole report on it – should attract anyone concerned with the health of our democracy. However, one point of dispute may interest Liberal Democrats in particular.

The authors highlight an idea described in the Manual that, following the resignation of a Prime Minister after a General Election, the person ‘seemingly most likely …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGordon 28th Nov - 10:59am
    Geoff - I am slightly bemused by your reply to my earlier comment because I was agreeing with the underlying point of your opening paragraph...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 28th Nov - 10:58am
    @ Betty "I guessed my life was miserable enough for legal aid. I guessed wrong". Those of us who opposed the Coalition well remember a...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 28th Nov - 10:56am
    If Jane was so fantastic, why did Greg Mulholland have to stand in for her on Newsnight?
  • User AvatarSimon McGrath 28th Nov - 10:38am
    Geoff - thanks. i have read your answer several times and am afraid i have no idea what it means.
  • User AvatarStuart 28th Nov - 10:37am
    @Denis Mollison "just how far back in history do you want to go?" Since I was answering AC's specific point about what he calls the...
  • User AvatarWilliam 28th Nov - 10:34am
    Why on earth is Nick saying: "In a constituency like this where we haven’t traditionally been competing at Westminster level" and helping with the squeeze...