Another day, another time Labour doesn’t bother turning up to defeat Government in Lords

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if there was a chance to defeat the Government, especially if it was to do with helping out low paid workers, Labour Lords would show up, wouldn’t you?

Certainly that would be a triumph of hope over experience in this Parliament, given that they never bothered to kill of the tax credit rise when they had the chance. Nor, of course, did they turn up to secure votes at 16.

Again tonight, they failed to show up to vote for a Liberal Democrat motion to get rid of the cuts to Universal Credit from April 2017. These are exactly the same cuts that were going to happen to tax credits.

Speaking after the defeat of the Lib Dem motion (by 91 votes to 202, which is a pretty spectacular turnout for our peers, Lords Chief Whip Dick Newby said:

Tonight Lib Dems voted to stop the Tories cutting vital support to millions of low income working families. Labour sat on their hands and did nothing. They could have helped stop these cuts to Universal Credit but chose not to.

Their failure to provide proper opposition means the Tory Government is getting away with cutting vital services, rigging our democracy, and risking our nation’s future. They are not deserving of the title of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition when they don’t oppose measures like this.

The Lib Dems will continue to oppose the ruthless cuts by the Tories, as we did in Coalition. We hope that at some point Labour may also step up to the plate.

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  • Eddie Sammon 27th Jan '16 - 10:20pm

    So if Lib Dem Lords try to vote down most Tory policies then why can’t Tory Lords vote down some Lib Dem policies?

    The Lib Dems are re-legitimising anti-democratic forces and should suffer consequences for it.

    Pretty much the only reason I’m still voting Lib Dem is because of the Syria vote, but I won’t be doing so with any kind of enthusiasm.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Jan '16 - 10:27pm

    Why shouldn’t we? The Tories have a Commons majority on barely a third of the vote and are trying to stitch up the Lords too. It’s supposed to do its job and scrutinise legislation and vote against it if it’s rubbish.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Jan '16 - 11:08pm

    Hi Caron, I can understand voting against a few things in the Lords, but it seems a regular thing now. It all seems to be justified on the idea that Tories were against Lords reform, but I think this is going to create new gripes with “Lib Dems voted against XY and Z”.

    Maybe the public support it, but it makes me uncomfortable. I’m sorry to say. 🙁

  • @Eddie Sammon
    Sad to say Eddie, it is just more political games. No doubt normal folk looking at what is going on will scratch there heads and mutter under their breath. Of course, that’s always assuming they’re paying any attention at all (low odds on that).

  • On a more positive note, let’s try, “Tories defeated in Lords over plans to cut ESA by £30 a week” or even how, on Monday, “Peers voted to keep targets aimed at reducing child poverty, forcing the government to reconsider its plan to abolish them.”….

    Still, why show where LibDem/Labour co-operation IS working when a cheap jibe at Labour is available…

  • Chris_sh ” No doubt normal folk looking at what is going on will scratch there heads and mutter under their breath”

    I know I am!

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '16 - 10:19am

    expats: “why show where LibDem/Labour co-operation IS working when a cheap jibe at Labour is available…”
    SILVIO: “appalling measures that the Lib Dems sprinted to support in the House of Commons and House of Lords makes this dig at Labour look like the cheap shot it is”

    I do wonder if the Lib Dem strategy, at least as viewed through the prism of LibDemVoice, is to prioritise winning back voters and seats which switched to the Conservatives. There certainly seems to be an approach of strongly attacking Labour on pretty much everything while selectively criticising the Conservatives on issues where the “nasty party” label will stick. Alternatively, this might simply reflect where the Lib Dems are positioned these days, as a sort of Tory party with a social conscience.

  • Let me make one suggestion here, with reference to context – and a lesson illustrative of coming to terms with the legacy of the Coalition. To a waverer on the left of the party, before the Coalition, this kind of jibe would have come across as party tribalism, and taken in that spirit. Post-Coalition, it serves as a reminder of all the support the party gave to the Tories, a reminder that this party took your anti-Tory vote and made it work against you.

    That’s unfair, but that’s the reality. LDV can either adapt or refuse.

  • David Faggiani 28th Jan '16 - 10:58am

    I think on balance I’m with expats here. More examples of positive co-operation might be nice.

    Also, what about the idea of inviting some Labour blogger to do a fortnightly column here on LDV? Maybe dealing with areas of consensus between the parties, or even polite areas of disagreement? I’m thinking like Stephen Tall’s columns that he did for ConHome during the Coalition Years… we are rivals, but, by dint of collectively being The Opposition, we’re also necessarily colleagues. Rob Marchant, to pick one suggestion?

    Also, I have discussed our Lords ‘policy’ (or practice) with an SNP-supporting friend recently, and I feel this might be an area where Tim Farron needs to let us know what we are actually doing here, in terms of our use, and attitude, towards the Lords. (I should say here that I’m actually fine with us having, and using, the House of Lords. I’d like it to be massively reformed and cut down to size, but I’m alright with it in principle, as an appointed chamber. I just know that a lot of Lib Dems aren’t, and it feels like their views/principles are being a little bit ignored in favour of what you could view as either political pragmatism or opportunism.). I’d just like to know where the Party stands on it. Particularly now that the Third Party in the Commons boycotts the Lords entirely, I feel like our position is.. muddy, to say the least.

  • “Tory party with a social conscience” bit of an oxymoron isn’t that? And besides, we are criticising Labour for not going far enough in opposing the Tories.
    As for the idea that we are “re-legitimising anti-democratic forces”, OK then, let’s boycott FPTP elections.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '16 - 11:34am

    @Alex Macfie “we are criticising Labour for not going far enough in opposing the Tories.”
    But only where the Conservatives can be painted as the nasty party. On the economy, Trident, Syria, tuition fees, etc., Lib Dems seem to attack Corbyn’s Labour for not agreeing with the Tories.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Jan '16 - 12:33pm

    I see nobody has actually offered any justification or excuse for Labour failing to act in the interests of low-income households.

  • @Caron Lindsay 28th Jan ’16 – 12:33pm

    I can’t see that there is any justification: hence why I’ve not made any. But the piece here is still misguided and self-damaging, for the reason I’ve illustrated. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • @Caron Lindsay
    A vote in the Lords is not going to stop cuts to Universal Credit. I suspect you know that.

  • Labour’s recent record on these kinds of votes is pretty dismal and seems more driven by a desire to not upset the press than concern for working and disadvantaged citizens.

  • @ Bolano “Post-Coalition, it serves as a reminder of all the support the party gave to the Tories, a reminder that this party took your anti-Tory vote and made it work against you”.
    Yes, couldn’t agree more, Bolano. It’s going to take a very long time – if ever – to get over that one

    Lewis Carroll put it well and it might brighten our day.:

    You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
    “And your hair has become very white;
    And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
    Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

    “In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
    “I feared it might injure the brain;
    But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
    Why, I do it again and again.”

    One can’t blame the Labour Party for being a bit cynical about Lib Dem initiatives now given the events of the last five years…… and it doesn’t help to improve the situation by perpetually pointing holier than thou fingers. Quiet background discussions without recriminations might do much more for the future.

  • David Allen 28th Jan '16 - 3:46pm

    Bolano, the justification is that, if the Opposition parties try to overturn everything the Government does by using their voting strength in the Lords, then the Tories will have every right to say that the Lords are exceeding their powers, and will take action to emasculate the Lords. Then we all lose.

    Labour seem to understand that, and hence don’t push too hard. That, of course, leaves room for the smaller Lib Dems to take a more oppositional role, knowing that since they’re going to lose the votes, that also won’t cause the Tories to clamp down on the Lords.

    If they just stopped at that, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. After all, it does no harm to talk about the harm that cuts to Universal Credit will cause, even if you can’t reverse them.

    But the Lib Dems don’t stop there. They use the excuse to make dishonest jibes about Labour, like the one reported here. Cheap shot.

  • @Peter Watson 28th Jan ’16 – 10:19am

    “I do wonder if the Lib Dem strategy, at least as viewed through the prism of LibDemVoice, is to prioritise winning back voters and seats which switched to the Conservatives.”

    I think there’s a clear strategy of wearing special glasses that make voters who left in the direction of Labour, Green, or sat on their hands invisible, for fear it reflects badly on the Coalition and Clegg. The “they would have abandoned us anyway so they don’t count” voters. You know the ones.

  • I think our response to the Labour supporters here should be “poor diddums”. Of course we have every right to criticise Labour for not supporting an attempt to stop the Tories’ meanness. I have seen articles here talking about co-operation between our peers and Labour ones but it seems to me that if it’s a Lib Dem initiative Labour peers will not support us. We were constantly attacked by Labour over the Coalition even though the Labour Party had turned itself into a Tory lite party and done little to help the poorest in our society during their long time in power. They accused us of seeking to privatise the NHS even though they were the ones to introduce privatisation and they attacked us simply for working with the Tories to sort out the financial mess they had left our country in. They did this all the time.
    We have an unfettered Tory Government now which seems determined to rob the poor to help the rich. Of course we should use every opportunity to try to stop them and ,failing that, show them up for what they are and if our peers are able to do that of course they should, even though our party would like to see constitutional reform.
    Labour cannot spend 5 years attacking us for supporting the Tories and then complain if we do the same when the tables are turned.

  • Not sure why Caron or anyone else would expect justification for Labour not attending a vote.

    This IS a LibDem site after all & just because some LibDem supporters frequent LabourList, one should not assume the reverse is true.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Jan '16 - 7:01pm

    Alex Macfie, FPTP elections are much more democratic than the Lords who cannot actually be removed by the public. For a few years I preferred FPTP to PR because I didn’t like ranking systems and no one, not even the electoral reform society, could explain to me how STV worked.

    The justification for not acting “in the interests of the low-paid” is that the country voted Conservative and even if we had PR UKIP and the Tories together would have had a majority. The left lost the election.

    If “acting in the interests of the low paid” is all that matters then the Monarch has the right to intervene and suddenly the name “liberal democrat” is inaccurate.

  • I think Justin trudeu was right when he removed the whip from all the liberal peers because the party was opposed in principle the the Undemocratic institution.

    If only the lib dems could show such courage and back bone. They claim to be opposed to unelected peers but want to flex their mussels in the House of Lords? It just looks so unprincipled…

    Or they complain that FPTP is wrong because it doesn’t produce a proportional outcome but tried to replace FPTP with a system that gives a less proportional outcome than FPTP most of the time…

    People hear these things and find the party difficult to trust.

    The party really need to act from political conviction instead of opportunism or they will never get rid of their bad reputation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '16 - 7:50pm

    I’ve glanced briefly at LDV, just to see what’s happening, and I’m sorry to see no change. The “nah nah nah nah nah”-“Orange Booker” alliance still seems to be intent on working together to destroy the party I was once such a proud and active member of. I can’t see the point of getting involved again trying to re-build it, as I hoped I would be doing post-2015, when this alliance seems determined to trample down anything people like me might want to try and build up.

    Bye bye.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jan '16 - 8:40pm

    The plain truth is that Labour are so tribal that even when they agree with us on an issue they won’t vote for it if we put it forward. This is nothing new. They have always been like that. Just as they always expect us to act like Labour Mark 2 and support them on anything they put forward. It is of course why they spent 5 years slagging us off for joining a coalition with anyone but them. (i.e. not acting like Labour mark 2 as we were supposed to)
    Unless they can change their behaviour we will always have difficulty in working with them.
    By the way, I don’t trust Conservatives either and would like to be able to work with Labour, but years of practical experience has shown me that they are not to be trusted and will stab us in the back as soon as they get the chance.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jan '16 - 8:43pm

    Matthew Huntbach. There isn’t and never has been a so-called ‘orange booker alliance’ running the party or LDV. Some of us – especially in SLF – are working to change the party (viz. the economics motion at party conference) and your support in that will help us get back on track. Quitting never helps anyone.

  • I wish Mick well with his economics motion, and with the SLF, at Conference. I’m very sorry to see Matthew Huntbach’s post. I fear Matthew does raise real issues which need to be addressed – I hope you think again, Matthew but I undertand where you’re coming from.

    On a different note – against my expectations – impressed by Nick Clegg’s contribution in the Commons in support of Norman Lamb’s proposal. As a Methodist, one was brought up to believe in the redemption and salvation of sinners – think about it, Matthew.

    Sad, and moved, by Shirley’s final Lords speech. I haven’t always agreed with her in recent years, but I take my hat off to her now as a bonny fighter for liberal values and a true ornament to the Party. Always moved by her mother’s Testament of Youth.

  • Peter Watson 29th Jan '16 - 12:34am

    @Mick Taylor “There isn’t and never has been a so-called ‘orange booker alliance’ running the party or LDV.”
    I think you might be misinterpreting Matthew’s point (or I might be!). I believe that in Matthew’s eyes the “nah nah nah nah nahs” are those blindly attacking the Coalition and the “Orange Bookers” are those blindly defending it. Together they effectively form an “alliance” (or rather, divided they form whatever the opposite of an alliance is!) which damages the party.
    I have missed Matthew’s contribution to LDV and do hope it is not goodbye as that would be a real loss to Lib Dems.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Jan '16 - 6:49am

    @Eddie Sammon: You seem to be arguing for elective dictatorship: the present government won the election “fair and square” so should be entitled to do whatever it wants to with no opposition until the next election. What next? Abolish judicial review? Prevent unelected judges from ruling against the government? Mandate government to follow the party whip?
    You forget that government are supposwed to be held to account throughout their term in office, not just at elections. The House of Lords is not perfect, but it’s better than having nobody to hold the government to account at all.

  • Mick Taylor 29th Jan '16 - 7:14am

    For once I agree with David Raw. As a Quaker I am fond of the advice given in Quaker Advices and Queries 1.02.17. ‘…Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that may be untrue or unfair. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.’ Advice that many correspondents of LDV could well bear in mind.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jan '16 - 7:26am

    Alex Macfie, no I’m not, first of all a government that can be removed can never be called a dictatorship and secondly it is not just the Lords blocking outrageous things that weren’t in the Tory manifesto, they are blocking whatever they like because they are there.

    If it was Tory Lords trying to block most of Labour’s socialist policies there would be an outrage. It is hypocritical and anti-democratic for the Lords to try to block most of the Conservative’s program, as Lib Dem Lords are doing.

    You can agree or disagree, but I find it astonishing that democrats can see no problem with the House of Lords blocking the elected house whenever they want.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jan '16 - 7:33am

    Remember the Lib Dem manifesto? The Lib Dems didn’t detail how you would have balanced the book either, so should Labour Lords have had authority to block the whole thing if they wanted?

    I believe in a constitution and perhaps stronger courts, but not just Lords jumping out of the woodwork after years of relative silence and challenging the elected house.

  • David Allen: Basically Labour favour the status quo, with an unelected second chamber held in check by a gentlemen’s agreement. This is why Labour never reformed the House of Lords when it had the opportunity to do so. Like the Tories, they find the arrangement of a second chamber that is muzzled by its perceived lack of moral mandate convenient, because it means that the chamber will also not be very effective at holding a future Labour government to account. So Labour’s failure to block Tory government measures in the Lords derives from a wish not to rock the boat, in case its actions lead to meaningful reform of the House of Lords.

    For this reason I fundamentally disagree with Eddie Sammon saying that it it is “hypocritical and anti-democratic” to use whatever power is available to hold the government to account and block measures we don’t agree with. Your attitude is implied support for the status quo. We fundamentally oppose the status quo of an unelected second chamber muzzled by a gentlemen’s agreement: we want an elected second chamber. To play by the gentlemen’s agreement is the coward’s way, it is supporting the House of Lords as it is currently constituted.

    If the Tories want to create dozens or hundreds of new Tory peers, let them try. I doubt they would actually do this: it would look extremely bad for them, and it could provoke a constitutional crisis. One that might lead to actual reform of the Lords. Which is also the last thing the Tories want.

  • @Rsf7: Trudeau’s action sounds to me like pointless gesture politics, more in character of a trendy lefty than a liberal. It could also backfire on him, as the Liberal peers could consider themselves no longer bound by the party line and act in practice as independents. Using your position in a legislature to amend laws and hold the government is much more useful than petty gestures like Trudeau’s

    Of course, now that he is in a position to reform Canada’s second chamber, let’s hope he actually does so.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jan '16 - 1:01pm

    Alex, just seen your latest posts. In order to reconcile disagreements over this and explain my thinking I think my belief in civil disobedience is what I think provides me with peace of mind against the elected government going too far.

    Even though I believe elected houses should make all the laws of their country, I don’t believe all the laws should be necessarily followed. I think people have an inalienable right to self-defence, especially when they are oppressed.

    Using the Lords can also be seen as a method of civil disobedience, but I think it’s being used too much. I want the house either abolished or elected, but the rest of the public’s view on this needs to be considered. Appointed wouldn’t be so bad if they had say 10 year term-limits. We could reduce the size of the house a lot too.

    I might sound hypocritical myself here, but what I’m saying is: do the public want to go through election campaigns for the Lords along with all the other elections? If we have them appointed I think it is fine as long as they have less power and/or term limits.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Jan '16 - 7:38pm

    There is no point in a second chamber that has no actual power. And if we were to decide not to have elections on the basis that people don’t appear to want them, then we should probably abolish elections for local councils and the European Parliament.

    The status quo of an unelected second chamber whose powers are limited by a gentlemen’s agreement is deeply unsatisfactory. In general, I do not think that gentlemen’s agreements are a good way of doing things, especially things as important as regulating constitutional power. Unfortunately, it is a rather common way of doing things in this country, with its unwritten constitution. So the gentlemen’s agreement over how members of the HoL should exercise their power is not something I wish to protect. If you say something along the lines of, “The Lords shouldn’t vote against the government, even though they can, because they are unelected, and if they exercise their power too much, then the government will flood the HoL with more of its own supporters,” you are effectively saying you support the preservation of the status quo, i.e. the unelected chamber. I want our peers to use their power precisely because I want to see the Lords reformed, and the best way this might happen is for the presently-constituted HoL to be shown up as the undemocratic institution that it is.

    So yes, the second chamber needs to be elected, or mainly elected. How this is done is something that needs discussion. It should be elected differently, and at different times, from the HoC. Perhaps elections should be staggered, and/or for longer terms than the HoC. Also a good idea would be to have no government ministers or shadow ministers there: make it completely independent of the government so that it can perform its proper function as a revising chamber.

  • In general, I do not think that gentlemen’s agreements are a good way of doing things, especially things as important as regulating constitutional power.

    I disagree, because a “gentleman’s agreement” is an agreement based on morals and trust. Whilst I agree that morals and trust might at times be in short supply among politicians and our representatives, I think we should encourage the aspiration to what is in effect a very dignified and civilised style of agreement. I also disagree, because much of my work, often comes down to making a judgement, a shake of hands and trust. Yes there may be paperwork (eg. contract, project plans, technical specifications etc.) to support the decision, but ultimately the final decision is all about trust. And yes I have to trust what is often a verbal agreement, will be honoured and my invoice will get paid…

    This isn’t to say I think the current arrangements concerning the HoL are perfect, only they aren’t all negative.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jan '16 - 10:56pm

    I was chatting to a slightly detached Labour peer about this vote and he said he thought it was part of the feeling that the Lords “ought not to defeat the Government too often”.


  • Alex Macfie 1st Feb '16 - 2:26pm

    Exactly, Labour supports the status quo regarding the Lords, and will do anything do avoid it being reformed.

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