Why Tory Euro-sceptics should back Nick Clegg

Writing for ConHome, Lord Michael Dobbs argues against reform of the House of Lords because elected peers would behave differently from unelected peers:

I would demand more influence, a stronger voice, and that new power could come from only one place – the House of Commons.

There’s two flaws with that argument. The first, the most obvious, is the question of why, if such a transfer of power happens, should we fear it? Taking power away from elected politicians and giving it to the unelected is certainly often to be feared (though not always – judges and juries, not ministers, should rule in court cases, to take the obvious example). But taking power from one set of elected politicians and giving it to other elected politicians? There is no inherent reason to fear that. Indeed a good part of the time many in the Conservatives talk, quite rightly, about taking power away from Whitehall and giving it to local councils. That’d be taking powers away from MPs and giving them to councillors. And quite right too.

But the second flaw is the one that should appeal to Euro-sceptics (and don’t worry, it can appeal to pro-Europeans too). It is that the real shift of power with an elected House of Lords would be a shift of power towards Parliament and away from the government. A stronger, more democratic Parliament will be better placed to hold the government to account and to check its mistakes.

That would include one of the things which Euro-sceptics love to hate – the government implementing directives agreed at the European level with the British agreement and implementation frequently getting only limited scrutiny in Parliament. A reformed Lords, invigorated by the mandate of democracy, would be better placed to push for better scrutiny.

A more assertive Upper House courtesy of democratic mandate is not something to be feared. It is something to be welcomed.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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3 Comments

  • I’ve been somewhat lukewarm over an elected House of Lords (I’m like the idea of getting rid of it altogether and strengthening the House of Commons). But the more I read and learn about this particular reform, I have to admit, the more I like it.

  • We must go on the offensive about this. We cannot lose te public argument like we did over AV. Already the more PR savvy right wingers are pushing the conservative line and I am hearing very little back from our side. Apparently the House of Lords works well, ammending legislation with people from all walks of life blah blah blah
    We need to highlight that this is complete rubbish – it often linked to corporatist interests, it by it’s age profile (i.e. majority are pensioners!) is inately conservative and peers can act in the interest of themselves rather than constituents because their isn’t any payback.
    Having watched the beggining of the debate, i’ve hardly heard from the ERS (although lets face it there about as much use as a chocolate fireguard).
    So what do we do: First of all we need a new organisation – Something that could be called something like Lords Reform that can put the case accross cogently.
    Secondly we need to get our best media performers to fight our corner – no offense to Baroness Jolly and Lord Oakshott who I have seen fighting our corner but non lords big hitters may be our best bet – can we please have cabinet ministers, tim farron, Simon Hughes talking about this much more.
    This is our big opportunity to actually get something out of the coalition – lets not waste it!

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