Dear Conservative MPs, Re House of Lords reform here’s what your manifesto & the Coalition Agreement say

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Conservative MPs — it appears some of them have only just read their own party’s manifesto and the Coalition Agreement they signed up to. That can be the only explanation for the sudden fit of vapours which have apparently afflicted three of their number over the issue of House of Lords reform.

So as a reminder to them, and as a service to their Tory colleagues, here’s a reminder of the Conservative Party’s promise to the people back in 2010 in its manifesto:

We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current house of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence.

Indeed, it was because all three major parties promised House of Lords reform that it was one of the easiest elements of the Coalition Agreement to slot into place. Again, here’s a reminder to forgetful Tories of what they committed to:

We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of oce. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

So to summarise. The Conservative Party manifesto promised elections to the House of Lords. The Coalition Agreement promised elections to the House of Lords. Which part of those promises have Conservative MPs forgotten?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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11 Comments

  • It’s the bit written in lemon juice underneath which says “Oh and by the way, ‘build a consensus’ and ‘establish a committee’ doesn’t mean we said we’d actually do anything about it like change the law or anything. And we had our fingers crossed behind our backs so it doesn’t count.”

  • Joseph Donnelly 20th Apr '12 - 11:31am

    @Caracatus

    You are letting perfection be the enemy of progress.

    I agree that regional STV for the Lords would be good, its not yet certain that Clegg + Harpers bill won’t propose that. The HoC committee looking at the draft legislation just proposed open list as their preferred system (some say they did this just as a way to split supporters of the reform into pro and anti camps because some would not support anything not perfect…)

    15 year terms with 1/3 elected every 5 years aren’t actually ‘anti-democratic’, theres a misunderstanding of what the word democracy actually means in a proper constitutional sense. Democracies need checks and balances on power, the idea of a long term view house and a short term view house is in my opinion a good one. The Lords should be providing a different role than the commons.

    Regradless though the most disappointing thing about your post is that you are clearly a supporter of Lords reform and yet you are not willing to accept that we will need to compromise to get this reform through. If you believe that the only possible form of Lords reform you can accept is your perfect version then we will never have Lords reform because all the people who believe that have slightly tweaked views of what is perfect, so could not even agree on that + we have no chance in hell of getting it past this parliament.

    Bottom line; we have a once in a century chance to pass Lords reform, finishing off what we started when we were last in majority government! Its absolutely awful to see pro-reform activists and even some of our peers making perfect the enemy of the good here. We won’t get another chance at this, if this is botched and the pro side descend into infighting and don’t rally behind it, do not expect to see reform in your lifetime.

  • The coalition document was more precise about keeping PCT’s and they have been scrapped so does it really matter anymore or just when it suits one party or the other ?

    The wording of the agreement certainly gives enough leeway for Tory MP’s to vote against any proposals as they have only agreed to establish a committee to bring them forward, not an obligation to vote for them. Very similar tactic to the wording in the Labour Manifesto that allowed MP’s to oppose AV as they only promised to hold a referendum. Either poor drafting by Lib Dems or clever drafting by Tories, take your pick….

  • Steve Griffiths 20th Apr '12 - 3:10pm

    I have fought for Lord’s Reform in the Liberal Movement for decades and yes, the Tories should be rightly slammed for forgetting manifesto promises once in government, but then they’re not the only party to turn their backs on a promise made to the electorate once in government, are they?

  • Well, on the one hand I suppose it must be better to elect people than not to elect them, But on the other, after the last two years I can’t help being sceptical, especially if the effect is going to be to make the Lords more beholden to the party system than they are at present. At least when people are appointed for life they are less likely to “cut their conscience to fit this year’s fashions,” or this year’s bit of shameless political expediency.

  • To be fair, Stephen, have you read the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto recently?

  • Whether or not this was actually part of the Conservative plan, we are in danger of the LibDems being shown to be ineffectual and rather risible in our “pet areas”. It would be sad to move on from AV – a badly run campaign for something nobody really wanted – to second house reform which ends up not happening.

    Conservative opposition is well organised, and the lack of a parliamentary consensus is a solid foundation for it. Labour will demand a referendum because they agree with reform but think it more important to clobber the government (and a referendum would actually be a good idea – it is only being avoided because public cynicism about politics in general has engendered political mistrust if the people).

    Here we go again.

  • Given that the tories are seemingly plotting against an elected house of lords is it not time you made peace with labour, and recognised working with them as the only chance of getting electoral reform through this parliament? You’d almost certainly get the votes to have a referendum, at the very least, with their support, and obviously the votes of Cabinet who have committed themselves to reforming the lords – and if Cameron et al don’t support you then you know exactly where you stand with respect to your role in government.

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