Chris Rennard writes: The row over the AV referendum will bring forward major changes in the House of Lords

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill has now had a longer Committee stage in the House of Lords than any legislation taken there since at least 1945. The Bill is not a particularly complicated Bill when compared with, say, the last Labour Government’s Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. Labour’s last constitutional Bill covered thirteen different areas of constitutional reform (including an AV referendum) and was dealt with in the Commons in a few days by use of a ‘Programme Motion’ (guillotine).

The PVSC Bill has been subject to an extensive and well organised filibuster on Labour’s benches abusing the House of Lords procedures that provide for “self-regulation”. The attempt to talk out the Bill and prevent the referendum taking place on May 5th has mostly appeared to come from former Labour MPs who now sit in the House of Lords. This group is strongly opposed to voters ever having a say on the electoral system by which their MPs are chosen. But they are merely the infantry deploying tactics that are carefully orchestrated. The discovery of an “opposition speaking grid” in a Ladies loo provided written proof of how Labour’s “high command” in the Lords organised the all night filibuster on 17/18 January.

Amendments in the House of Lords that are very similar are generally grouped together to assist sensible scrutiny and debate. Labour have exploited the rights of any peer to keep tabling amendments and then “de-group” their amendments so that there is a separate lengthy debate on each amendment however similar it is to other amendments and however frivolous it may be. This was the tactic threatened by a former Labour Chief Whip in the Lords even before the debates began.

When the Committee stage in the House of Lords began on November 30th, there were 47 groups of amendments tabled for consideration. But the tactic of constantly tabling amendments and then “de-grouping them” meant that we started the 14 day in Committee last Wednesday having considered 96 groups of amendments and already facing another 40. The tactic was most easily shown in the all night sitting on the night of January 17th. Very similar amendments were tabled by different Labour peers to say that the number of MPs should be either 630, 640 or 650. These amendments then were “de-grouped” so that there could be a separate 3 hour debate on each one and no real progress made on the Bill in the nine hours from midnight until 9 am. But when Labour peers wanted to get home early the next afternoon they dealt with 3 amendments in an hour.

Labour are trying to deny that they are filibustering and there have been some interesting exchanges between myself and Lord McAvoy on this subject. Here was our most recent exchange. I took the trouble of looking up how often as Tommy McAvoy he had spoken in the House of Commons in the last four years. The answer was just once in four years when he muttered just four words. Now as Lord McAvoy he has spoken 77 times on this Bill. This is still less than half as frequently as another arch opponent of electoral reform Lord Foulkes who probably holds the record on this Bill with 189 contributions. It is certainly not consistent behaviour with the sort of ‘new politics’ promised by Ed Milliband.

This week, there is the possibility that some compromises may be made on the Bill. Labour may realise that they are damaging themselves through this sort of behaviour. In any event it seems clear now (especially to many of the independent crossbenchers) that these tactics must be brought to an end and that procedures in the Lords will change. Self regulation in the chamber has not prevented repetitive, irrelevant and unnecessarily lengthy speeches. The “usual channels” (ie. discussion between the whips) are not working and a Business Committee is now needed. It could make sure that in future similar amendments must be taken together. But it would be a great shame if procedural reforms have to go further and Labour’s tactics prevent the sort of proper parliamentary scrutiny in future that they have a legitimate right to seek as an opposition party.

Lord Rennard is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

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56 Comments

  • “This week, there is the possibility that some compromises may be made on the Bill. Labour may realise that they are damaging themselves through this sort of behaviour.”

    I note this with interest as there have been none (compromises) to date. It is OK to talk about the new politics but in the words of Tony Greaves last week:

    “The Government’s side of the deal is to listen, discuss, negotiate and accept some changes, even if they are not completely thrilled about them. The deal on the Opposition is that, in return, they do not abuse the procedures; they do not destroy the ability of the House to scrutinise, revise and improve; and, in particular, they have a duty not to make self-regulation impossible. ”

    There has been little listening and negotiating and zero compromise. There are so many issues that are contentious about this Bill but the AV vote is not one of them. You claim, “This group is strongly opposed to voters ever having a say on the electoral system by which their MPs are chosen” yet you do not note that you have been offered no opposition to the AV vote if the bill is split.

    The Government will not even make a firm pledge on the number of ministers meaning far less power to back benches as the payroll vote as a proportion of the total will not definately reduce.

    In both the commons and the Lords the Government has ignored all reasonable objections and amendments and therefore is getting what it deserves, and that is to be treated with equal contempt in return. As for Milliband breaking promises, he is in good company with the majority of Lib Dem MP’s in that.

    Perhaps if both sides grow up they will be able to move on.

  • I wish some people would get a life – Clegg wants to totally alter the Lords so it really makes no difference whether this is fillibustering or not or what dire changes could be brought about because of it – the dire changes are coming anyway.

    Now as to Labour renaging on new politics – there is no one other than a few hard-core Clegg supporters who see this bill as anything more than a squalid compromise between Cameron and Clegg for their own political advantage.

    The two diverse section s of this bill should never have been cobbled together and it was only done so out of political expediency.

    Most LibDems know that the boundary gerrymandering involved is a disgrace and if they want to delay the AV vote then that’s up to them to tell the Tories where to get off and split the bill so that we can pass the AV element and deal with the other ragbag of Tory ideological claptrap separately.

    And don’t speak to me of new politics when 2 LibDem seats in Scotland become exempted and yet the IoW doesn’t. As usual the detail just isn’t there – I have watched hours of the Lords debate and have never ever heard a coaltion spokesman able to answer satisfactorily how the 600 figure was arrived at. And there is no electoral mandate for what is happening in this bill with the government of the day setting the number of seats.

    The LibDem leadership seem to have to have taken leave of its senses – every day they make another attack on the working class with the latest being that every UK worker now loses the right to take an unfair dismissal claim to an Employment Tribunal after being employed for 12 months. Now they don’t have any protection till after 24 months employment.

    You have destroyed their statutory protection and civil liberties at a stroke for ‘growth’ but where is your electoral manadate to back Tory ideology. No you don’t support UK workers and strip them of legal rights but you want to give terror suspects their civil liberties.

    No wonder you will be destroyed at the next GE,

  • There certainly is a major difference between you and Tommy McAvoy – He was publicly elected as an MP on many occasions during his time in the House. You were a LibDem backroom boy who has never been publicly elected. I think enough said.

  • Steve, the Govt did give ground on the issue of constituencies. But I agree they need to go further. Stop the practice of creating unpaid Ministers, in order to come to an arrangement with the crossbenchers.

  • I think if the bill was just the AV referendum it would be done and dusted, and the government know it, just as most of the public do understand what is going on.

    If the Liberal Democrats and the government really wanted the AV referendum it would have been easy to see that through on its own, I don’t think there would have been a problem.

    It is the tactics of the Government that really need to be assessed in tying so many items with AV in which they know the opposition are against, and then to play the blame game is disgraceful and deceitful, we are not stupid and this sort of Spin just makes the Liberal Democrats more unfit for duty each day.

  • @Adam

    I’m not aware of the government giving ground on constituencies and wonder if you could provide further details?

  • Most LibDems know that the boundary gerrymandering involved is a disgrace
    ——-
    And the current advantage to Labour isn’t? Even if one supports them, that is wrong and needs to change. Is the proposed system better? It does appear to hurt Labour more than anyone else, but with the system currently slightly biased in their favour a bit of that is inevitable, and it is not as though the Tories are personally redrawing boundaries to achieve advantage.
    ———
    And don’t speak to me of new politics when 2 LibDem seats in Scotland become exempted and yet the IoW doesn’t.
    ————
    Wasn’t that one of the amendments that passed? It has become difficult to follow at times.

    At the end of the day, I am sure there have been problems with the bill, and it is right that the Lords work on it. But none of that changes the fact the in report after report after report, Labour peers have not, repeat not, been outlying the worth of their proposed amendments and then debating the merits with the house. No, they have been droning on and on and on and on; that is for the sole purpose of delaying the AV referendum, and has nothing to do with the merits of the bill. If it could be argued to, I would be in complete favour, as this is very important legislation and needs plenty of scrutiny, and even if that means the AV referendum is delayed that would be fine. But it seems fairly uindeniable that the opposition have not been interested in just debating the proposed changes, but base political goals in causing an embarrasing delay.

    Whether one agrees with the contents of the bill or not, it is no excuse to have acted in such a way; there have never been such delays for so long, and yet I’m sure there were times when the majority of the house was vehemently opposed in the past but accepted they had performed their role as best they could. If they wanted to truly debate they could, and I’d applaud them every step of the way, but too often they have not been doing that. That is near as unquestionable a fact as exists right now. I would even say that even if one thinks the government have been acting to their own advantage here (shock), two wrongs do not make a right, especially when it could lead to a fundamental yet hashed reevaluation of the way the lords currently operate.

  • Perhaps if both sides grow up they will be able to move on.
    —————–
    If only

  • Kieran – ‘Most LibDems know that the boundary gerrymandering involved is a disgrace’
    I suggest you look up the meaning of ‘gerrymandering’. The creation of equal sized seats/electorates is the exact opposite of this. The tiny ‘rotten’ Labour boroughs that give them a substantial unfair electoral advatage are indeed a gerrymandered disgace that needs sorting!

  • Chris Rennard 30th Jan '11 - 10:48am

    A number of points:

    1) Labour say that the provisions of the Bill providing for the AV Referendum and the provisions providing for reducing the number of MPs and creating constituencies of more equal sized electorates should have been dealt with in two Bills. But putting two measures of constitutional reform together was obviously part of the coalition agreement and it is certainly not unprecedented to deal with more than one related constitutional reform measure in the same Bill. My posting mentioned the last Labour Government’s Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (13 constitutional measures of which two were an AV Referendum and ending hereditary by-elections in the House of Lords. The first Bill that I dealt with in the Lords (Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act of 2000) also dealt with many different constitutional issues .

    2) Compromises. The Government did accept the amendment in my name and that of Lord Tyler to say that the Boundary Commissions should look at the existing constituency boundaries amongst the other factors involved in drawing up their proposals for new seats. There may be room for further compromises with Labour providing that they do not wreck the principles of creating fewer more equal sized seats in time for the General Election in 2015. If we don’t do that, then the seats fought in 2015 will most be based on their electorates in 2000 ie. way out of date. So I hope that they may be further compromises – for example to look at the way in which the Boundary Commissions may be able to take oral evidence as well as written evidence.

    3) Government defeats. The way in which I have seen compromises made and agreements reached in previous legislation has been when “the opinion of the House has been tested” and the Government made to take this into account. The Government lost votes on the potential timing of the referendum and on making the Isle of Wight a special case. But the amendments from Labour peers such as to issue the ballot papers in Scotland also in gaelic (something that doesn’t happen in Scotland in any elections) are simply discussed at some length and then withdrawn – taking up time that could otherwise be spent on more serious issues.

    4) Exemptions. It is wrong to say that “two Lib Dem seats in Scotland are exempted from the normal rules” and to imply that this is gerrymandering. The Bill does provide for two exemptions – one is an SNP seat and one is a Lib Dem one. But anyone looking at a map showing the Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland will see why they have always been treated as separate seats. The special treatment for Orkney & Shetland was written in to the Scotland Act by Labour in 1998 and was also part of the 1986 Boundary legislation.

    Chris

  • Paul McKeown 30th Jan '11 - 10:54am

    Hmmm, switched on the Parliament channel once, a couple of weeks ago, during this entire absurdity, and whose physog happened to be insulting the screen?

    Tommy McAvoy’s. Chuntering on about how he respected and admired tradionalist old style right wing Tories, good friends of his apparently, who had shown him great kindness since his elevation to the Lords. He could appreciate a good fight, it seems, left and right, that’s what it was all about. He could respect an old fashioned Tory who sent the poor to the workhouse, at least you could have a decent brawl with him, even land a low blow or two, you knew where he was coming from, he knew the rules, too, and he knew that it was alright to break the rules, too, when no one was looking. But he couldn’t stand “Liberals”, it transpired, and for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why those good old-fashioned Tories, didn’t just string them all up, how could they get in bed with them? It just spoiled the good old fight. He loathed Liberals, detested them and couldn’t wait until they were exterminated. You only needed two parties, the rest were pointless, scabs and dirty Tories who couldn’t come out and admit it, a filthy fifth column.

    I had thought always thought John Prescott tribally incoherent, but he had nothing on this eejit.

    I switched off.

    Had never heard of this character before, hope never to hear from him again.

    Thanks, you just spoiled my Sunday!

  • ‘The PVSC Bill has been subject to an extensive and well organised filibuster on Labour’s benches abusing the House of Lords procedures that provide for “self-regulation”.’

    You think that’s well organized ? The cross bench objections to the guillotine motion, in itself an abuse of the democratic process, gather apace.

    You’ve never actually been elected though. And you’ve only ever worked for your party. You continue to do so – at our expense and then having the temerity to criticize others for their lack of support for “new politics” ?

    If you and your tory masters hadn’t conflated electoral reform with boundary changes you would haven’t had this trouble.

  • @Kieran

    I’m afraid that you will need to do a bit more homework,, The 2 exempt Scottish constituencies were there from the first Coalition announcement and not as any part of whatever negotiations you are talking about.

    New studies have shown that the new system doesn’t actually hurt Labour as much as first predicted and as expected by the Tories and also one study shows that by far the biggest loser will be the LibDems. I have previously cited these studies – you’ll find them easily enough with an internet search.

    How you can actually say they are trying to delay AV quite honestly is just so far removed from reality that I am astonished at your ignorance about what the fillibustering is all about.

    Whar fascinates me about some LibDems on this site is their enthusiasm for keeping the traditions of the Lords – well the sooner it’s all swept aside the better in my book. And don’t give us any nonsense about its role as a revising chamber – this Tory coalition is listening to no one who disagrees with it whether in the country, the Commons or the Lords.

    I have no intention of going into the nuts and bolts of the Tory constituency gerrymandering that gave this sad bill life as you are not prepared to listen and debate from a neutral position which for me is electing a Speakers Commission and allowing the Boundaries Commission to do work-out the detail. Instead you are setting a very dangerous precedent which may well come back and bite you at a later time.

    I personally have no problem with votes being of equal ‘weight’ but this can only be achieved in a FPTP system by destroying community-linked constituencies and ending up with artifical boundaries that will change on a regular basis. I think a lot of any MPs vote is a personal thing and I truly fear the situation where electors end up losing touch with who their MP actually is as they continually play a game of pass the parcel on boundaries.

    No matter what system is devised there will always be certain biases for a huge host of reasons – we can’t get equal weight under FPTP – there will always need to be a percentage margin and I think 5 per cent is too low and 10 is probably going to deal with 90 per cent of the problems – so what’s the problems.

    The problem is – just like the economy – this government has decided to show no weakness. Well they will be destroyed in the process along with their Tory allies in the LibDems

  • @Chris Rennard

    1) I am well aware that this bill was cobbled together by the Tory Coalition for political expediency. I reckon it shows ill-judgement on Clegg’s part because Cameron might well have had a lot more difficulty disguising the gerrymandering elements if it had been presented separately. Now Clegg faces losing the AV section because he isn’t strong enough to tell Cameron to split the Bill. However, that’s a problem for the LibDems.

    2) On Compromises – You have won from the government: ‘the Boundary Commissions should look at the existing constituency boundaries amongst the other factors involved in drawing up their proposals for new seats.’ Now I don’t want to be offensive but is that it. No guarantee that existing boundaried will be the backbone of the new constituencies – no actual guarantee about anything in reality and most definitely no guarantee that the government propsal will be altered on iota. Well if I was marking you exam paper I would state: ‘Could do better’. No make that: ‘Must do better’.

    3) I think we all know what fillibustering is about. You have to decide whether you want the current AV referendum date to stand or not – pure and simple. Tell the Tories to get stuffed and don’t allow them to hide behind LibDem skirts or perhaps that should be kilts or maybe not as you’ll be going the way of Scottish Tories soon – an endangered species.

    4) Exemptions – I was referring more to old politics in a sense. You were supposed to be bringing in a totally new concept but you retain something from the old one because that’s how it was agreed in the past. On that basis why are we doing anything new? I’m afraid your defence is very weak on this.

    As I pointed out earlier you have never ever stood for public election and I actually question your credentials to be determining the way in which voters should or should not be allowed to vote as you have never subjected to the public scrutiny and judgement that comes from asking for their vote. A little more humility and objectivity and understanding of the political system would not go amiss.

  • It sadly appears that there are some people reading this site who really think that what Labour peers are doing is right because the most important thing is to trash the Lib Dems.
    Luckily, the most likely consequence of what Labour peers are up to is that they will make it much easier to argue the case for reform of the HoL. But God knows what those same Labour peers will get up to in their efforts to stop that happening.

  • @Grant Williams

    Personally I don’t think anyone in the real world cares about the Lords or AV – I do think some care about constituency boundaries.

    However, if you want to save money don’t just cut-down on MPs – start by scything the HoL – how many new Coalition Peers since the election now – must be at least 120 – I am well aware this happens with any change of government because the incoming one wants to get its legislation through.

    So let’s cut out the nonsense about revising chamber – this is a chamber to put through government business. This Tory Coalition doesn’t want revision – it brooks no opposition – so LibDems please stop kidding yourselves.

  • Kieran – ‘Most LibDems know that the boundary gerrymandering involved is a disgrace’
    I suggest you look up the meaning of ‘gerrymandering’.
    ——————-
    LeekLiberal -That wasn’t me who said that. My apologies for not quoting correctly, or clearly, but that was EcoJon who said that.
    ————
    EcoJon -I’m afraid that you will need to do a bit more homework,, The 2 exempt Scottish constituencies were there from the first Coalition announcement and not as any part of whatever negotiations you are talking about.
    ———
    I will have do to more homework undoubtedly – my main objection to this whole affair has been the false impression the delaying tactics are about debating and not delaying when the evidence suggests otherwise – but it would appear my main issue is clarification. I was referring to the IoW not being exempt: I thought I had read somewhere that an amendment had been passed to make it so – the point I was trying to make was that I acknowledge there are changes to be made to the bill, but that this does not mean the tactics used by the opposition is correct. As well as being condescending.
    ————
    EcoJon How you can actually say they are trying to delay AV quite honestly is just so far removed from reality that I am astonished at your ignorance about what the fillibustering is all about.
    ———-
    And I find this statement completely disingenuous, not to mention I imagine intentionally misinterpreting what I have said. Let me lay it out plainly, as you are, like the opposition for whom I agree with several points, deliberately misrepresenting the concerns with the actions.

    The main concerns about the bill are not to do with the AV referendum; I know that, we all know that. Many of the objections raised on other aspects of the bill have some substance. We all know that. The issue, for me, is that the Peers are filibustering rather than debating the merits of amendments: if, as you so preposterously claim, the point is not to delay the Av referendum – which many may support in principle – to cause the government embarrassment, then they would be debating the actual goddamned amendments properly; there are so many, the bill might not have been passed in time even if they weren’t filibustering.

    The bill will in all likelihood be passed – it has the votes – and would be eventually even if all the amendments were debated properly. But we cannot know that, because in order to delay to cause embarrassment to the government the Peers are not properly debating because of the filibustering.

    Get it now? I am not an imbecile: I know the points of concern are not to do with the issue of the referendum and never intended to say otherwise. But the delaying tactics do not have anything to do with supposed gerrymandering or anything else – you cannot honestly claim that when the fact of the filibustering hinders actual debate on the merits of the amendments – but causing embarrassment. The evidence supports that by way of the reporting on what the peers have been doing to delay, rather than discuss the important issues. There, and your, attempts to disregard anger at that by portraying those who are angry as mistaking to points of concern is false and offensive to me.

    I have already said I would not have minded the AV referendum being delayed because of all the debating. I have also said there are many issues with the bill that needed debate and scrutiny. I am not concerned about it being delayed, in fact I want more debating on the amendments. The opposition is not doing that properly because they do want to delay the referendum, and I would thank you not to imply my arguments are not what I have said in order to ridicule them.

  • I have no intention of going into the nuts and bolts of the Tory constituency gerrymandering that gave this sad bill life as you are not prepared to listen and debate from a neutral position which for me is electing a Speakers Commission and allowing the Boundaries Commission to do work-out the detail. Instead you are setting a very dangerous precedent which may well come back and bite you at a later time.
    ———-
    Who said I am not prepared to be neutral? I’m only angry at legislators not debating but filibustering. I’ve never voted Tory, and I’m not even sold on the idea of cutting the number of MPs; splitting the bills makes sense to me on the face of it (the complexities may be greater than they first appear on that subject). My problem has been Labour misrepresentation of what is going on (something all parties do but is always annoying) and the aforementioned lack of proper debate in favour of party political interests.

  • @MrsB

    The HoL needs root and branch reform – do you actually want to keep this unelected chamber as it is? Fillibustering is part of the political landscape and is used on a daily basis in the HoC. The scale this time in the HoL is bigger but then the stakes are far higher.

    LibDems have a clear choice – split AV away and you can keep the date. Don’t and you risk it being delayed and coming after a LiBDem poll wipe-out which will damage the YES vote – personally I don’t care because having seem how Tory LibDems have become in coalition I have gone from a nominally PR supporter right back to a FPTP supporter and NO voter as I don’t want anymore coalitions.

    I know I am not alone in that and Clegg has destroyed PR for a generation – the only thing he’ll find hard when he joins the Tories is having to go back to espousing FPTP but I’m sure he’ll manage like everything else he swallows.

  • @Kieran

    Kieran you don’t need to vote Tory these days to vote Tory – you can vote LibDem.

    I am having difficulty in understanding what Labour is misrepresenting – there is a fillbuster going one – it happens just about every day in the HoC when various things are talked-out – it’s part of the political landscape and merely a device for kicking things into the long grass.

    Labour Peers are fillibustering – they want to split the bill and they ahve no other way of doing it. If you don’t like it then reform the Lords oh duh you’re going to do that anyway. Why do you think no one cares about threats on this issue. More poor political judgement from Clegg I’m afraid.

    But as he appears to be a part-time worker I’m not surprised.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Jan '11 - 12:04pm

    Of course filbustering in favour of position you believe to be right is only something that LibDems and their Tory friends should be entitled to do isn’t it?

    From Wikipedia on filibusters

    On July 3, 1998, Labour MP Michael Foster’s Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill was blocked in parliament by opposition filibustering.
    In January 2000, filibustering orchestrated by Conservative MPs to oppose the Disqualifications Bill led to cancellation of the day’s parliamentary business on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 1000th day in office. However, since this business included Prime Minister’s Question Time, Conservative Leader William Hague was deprived of the opportunity of a high-profile confrontation with the Prime Minister.
    On Friday 20 April 2007, a Private Member’s Bill aimed at exempting Members of Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act was ‘talked out’ by a collection of MPs, led by Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes and Norman Baker who debated for 5 hours, therefore running out of time for the parliamentary day and ‘sending the bill to the bottom of the stack.’ However, since there were no other Private Member’s Bills to debate, it was resurrected the following Monday.

    Of course “do as say not as I do” is fast becoming the founding principle of the we are in together coalition.

  • @EcoJon

    Can you please adopt a less shrill tone in your posts, on this topic I actually agree that the boundary changes are probably not a good thing but your emotive language and pugilistic attitude towards other posters are rapidly making me reconsider my view on the matter.

    I agree that these boundary changes are undesirable – my reasoning however is that unless the seat corresponds to a coherent a community as possible that the whole idea of having a representative in parliament is flawed as the representative will never be able to represent the majority of his or her constituents. The current system is bad enough for this – seats like either Oxford seat or mixed rural-urban seats like OE&S can never have a representative truly representing the needs of the people of those seats – and the changes make it even worse. To be honest, I don’t think there is a fair way of ironing out this problem without multi-member constituencies.

    However, the current system is incredibly biased towards Labour (35% for Labour gives overall majority, 36% for Tories gives a hung parliament) at the moment. It is silly for the Tories to think that they’ll get any kind of long term gain out of this because FPTP systems usually end up arbitrarily supporting one party unfairly – they were the beneficiaries before Labour were but they are seeking to address a real problem (badly). Of course, it’s nothing about fairness, Labour opposes the changes because it doesn’t benefit them to have them and the Tories support them because they’d have no change of a majority in 2015 otherwise. The bill is tacked onto AV because without it the AV referendum won’t happen and without the AV referendum happening it’s unlikely that the LDs would stay in coalition. I think you know this obvious truth as well as I do.

    However, the shrill cries of “gerrymandering” – when in fact it’s an (admittedly hideously short-sighted and flawed) correction of an inbuilt bias in the electoral system make me actually warm a lot more to the idea of boundary changes – I don’t even mind them being lumped up with AV anymore. It would be wonderful to have reasonable debate rather than the kind of emotive language that seems to always crop up on this topic – you’d also have a better chance of convincing other people that way.

    Also, fyi – referring back to the first post you made in this thread, the Isle of Wight is also exempted and one of the two seats which were explicitly exempted right from the start is an SNP seat, not a LD one.

  • I see no Iceberg 30th Jan '11 - 12:17pm

    It’s pretty unlikely there will be major changes to the House of Lords since the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives started stuffing it full of their placemen as soon as they could. As did Labour when they came to power.

    For all the bluster and threats this kind of thing was always going to happen when such a contentious move as gluing AV to boundary changes was done. And it was done to placate Cameron who feared trouble from his backbenches if they were not seen to get something out of AV, as well as making sure that any Liberal Democrats did not vote down the boundary changes when it became clear that they would be the major losers in that.

    AV is a massive change and so are boundary changes. To use the threat of yet more massive change to the Lords when it is clear that these two aren’t going to go through easily, if at all in their current form through the Lords, is a somewhat curious strategy.

    If you think this Bill has been problematic and hard to rush through, wait till the Lords cut up rough about something they were always going to be extraordinarily recalcitrant about. Namely changes to and weakening of their own powers.

  • @Adam
    “Steve, the Govt did give ground on the issue of constituencies. But I agree they need to go further.”

    Hi Adam this was from the Government benches and in conjunction with the 5% rule will have a marginal effect.

    @Kieran
    “Labour peers have not, repeat not, been outlying the worth of their proposed amendments and then debating the merits with the house. ”

    It takes two sides to debate and the Government bench decided early on to give nothing..

    @Chris Rennard
    1) It is just common sense (and would be a sign of the supposed “new politics”) to separate the issue that has cross party support from the contentious one. It is also the only issue that is so time critical.

    2) So the Government have been shown to accept compromise by accepting changes from….. the Government benches. Without allowing a larger variance in the 5% rule any compromise will be useless anyway. Again I suggest you take a look at the entirely sensible quote from Tony Greaves. You have raised the Labour time wasting issues, however you neglect to go into some of the very well thought through ones such as a number of the Scottish and Welsh constituencies that will be geographically unworkable. Also the issue of public consultation and the threat of judicial reviews that was supported by Lord Woolf.

    3) Exemptions. I suggest you take a closer look at the map and review the transport and geographical restrictions in some other constituencies. There should either by NO exceptions or as many are required to enable good relationships between constituents and their MP’s.

    Finally, stop the spin that this is about AV, it’s not and you know it. Labour ended up despised for their spin and the Lib Dems are well on their way to repeating the same mistake.

    @MrsB
    “the most important thing is to trash the Lib Dems”
    Actually no, the most important thing is to stop the vandalism of constituencies that this Bill in it’s current form will lead to. The Government decided early on to make this a scrap and deserve what they are getting. If there were an election tomorrow I would not vote Labour (although unless the Lib Dems remember to be both Liberal and Democratic then they would lose my vote as well). I would rather see some grown up behaviour from all sides and having heard the less than noble Lords of all sides I doubt that will happen. For example a Tory Lord entered the chamber moments after Lord Woolf and incredibly respected Cross Bencher had finished talking (at some length) for an amendment and then passed sarcastic comment when Lord Goldsmith was making a 3 – 4 minute closing comment. When Blair had his big majorities he rode roughshod over opposition positions that would have improved Bills, with no real mandate for these changes the coalition are doing the same.

  • Of course some type of top up lists to make each vote actually worth the same would solve the problem and also mean that those MP’s who take up posts that take too much time away from constituency matters could have some support from those with none.

    As it happens I agree the boundaries need to be changed, Labour get an advantage at the moment and this needs to be addressed. But this should be a real exercise in ensuring fairness not one that will butcher the traditional relationship between communities, voters and their representatives because of the lack of flexibility given to those responsible. The actual savings in reducing MP numbers is marginal when considering democratic accountability. The commision should be allowed to identify the optimum number of seats and not stick to some number pulled out of thin air (that no one has yet explained the relevance of).

  • David Boothroyd 30th Jan '11 - 12:34pm

    There is so much disinformation being put about by squealing Lib Dems over this Bill. Let me tackle just two of them.

    First the fact that the present electoral system will give Labour an overall majority on a lower vote share than the Conservatives is not “inbuilt” in the sense that there is a major technical deficiency with the system. There is a minor inbuilt advantage to Labour which derives from the over-representation of Wales, but that is worth no more than five seats, and in any case Wales is over-represented in proportion to its population because it is a separate nation and not because it is Labour.

    The reason why Labour finds it easier to win an overall majority is because of two factors, one being that Labour safe seats have significantly lower voter turnout than Conservative safe seats. The other and more important is because of the voting patterns which electors have developed into. These are the choices of voters (as influenced by the local campaigns of the political parties) and not of the Boundary Commission. Neither of these factors will be affected by the Bill.

    Second, the Lib Dems ought to know that Lord Rennard’s claim that the object of Labour peers subjecting the Bill to lengthy scrutiny is to stop the referendum taking place on 5 May is bogus. Labour is not bothered about when the referendum takes place. What has happened is that what looked like crafty tactics has rebounded on the Government. There was no reason to add the appalling redistribution proposals to the AV referendum; but joining them unified the coalition. But by setting a date for the referendum, the Bill then gets a deadline, against which Labour peers can push in order to get concessions on the redistribution proposals. If the Bill was decoupled then there would be no deadline for the redistribution.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Jan '11 - 12:50pm

    Blahblah

    Could you explain why you consider it acceptable to replace a system that is biased to Labour with one that is biased in other ways. Given that there are currently estimated to be c4m unregistered voters how you be sure that a system which bases constituency size on registered electorate rather than population wouldn’t introduce a considerable bias to certain parties as well??

  • Chris Rennard 30th Jan '11 - 1:10pm

    @ David Boothroyd

    I agree about the first point. There have been some massive misapprehensions about the consequences of re-drawing the boundaries on both Labour and Conservative sides of the argument. Equalising the size of the electorates in each constituency will not make much difference to biases in the system. Such bias as there is from different sized seats will be largely dealt with by reducing the relative over-representation of Wales. The Conservatives have failed to understand that they tend to have very large majorities in many of their seats (with Lib Dems second) and very few “wasted” Labour votes. Labour tend to have much smaller majorities in many of their seats with the Lib Dems in third place and lots of “wasted” Conservative votes. So Labour need a much lower share of the vote to win a majority under the present FPTP system. Labour’s overall majority was 66 in 2005 with just 36% of the vote. The Conservatives were more than 20 short of an overall majority with 36% of the vote last year. Of course there is a much more fundamental answer to this problem….but re-drawing the boundaries on equal sized electorates will make little difference to this ‘unfairness’. But it must be fairer in general to have each MP representing approximately the same number of electors as opposed to some representing around twice as many electors as others do. Roughly equal sized electorates for constituencies was a key demand of the Chartists.

    But on the second point, you only have to listen (I know it is hard) to the contributions from the Labour back benches that are of the most filibustering kind to see my point. When you consider the opposition of these Labour peers to the democratic principle of letting voters have some say in the system by which their MPs are chosen (something that was in their own Manifesto last year) – you see that the reason that they speak for so long is to try and prevent the AV referendum taking place as planned. They are trying to prevent it taking place on May 5th when 87% of the country also has elections. If the referendum is postponed then, they want to force it to a day when they will try to challenge the costs of holding it on a separate day from other elections and to impose turnout thresholds to try and deny the will of the people if it goes against what they want.

    The only fillibsuter I am personally aware of on this scale was that undertaken by Southern Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate in the 1960s to try and prevent Civil Rights legislation giving black people equal voting rights.

    The fillibuster is not a weapon for democracy. Its use strenthens the overwhelming case for proper democratic reform of the House of Lords. In the meantime, the procedures must be brought more in to line with the sort of practices more recently adopted in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly to ensure that proper scrutiny prevails and the farcical aspects of the current controversy are not repeated.

    Chris

  • @Chris Rennard

    The only fillibsuter I am personally aware of on this scale was that undertaken by Southern Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate in the 1960s to try and prevent Civil Rights legislation giving black people equal voting rights.

    I’m sure you didn’t mean to compare the actions of Labour peers to racists trying to perpetuate an apartheid.

  • @Chris Rennard
    “When you consider the opposition of these Labour peers to the democratic principle of letting voters have some say in the system by which their MPs are chosen (something that was in their own Manifesto last year) – you see that the reason that they speak for so long is to try and prevent the AV referendum taking place as planned. ”

    But they have offered numerous times to allow the AV vote to happen, if you want it that badly call their bluff. you know this is just spin and that the arguments are nothing to do with the AV vote.

    You are yet to answer any of the real question put in this blog, selectively cherry picking points. Let’s start with 3 easy ones.

    1. Why 600, why not allow the commision to decide within a margin ?
    2. Why some exceptions for geographical reasons but not others ?
    3. Why no consideration of the ability of constituents to access their MP ?
    4. Why no acceptance of the need for public hearings even when so elegantly put by Lord Woolf.
    5. Why 5%. Surely this takes away the ability of the commision to use their perogative (instead of yours).
    6. Why registered voters and not population. This could then be tied into changes post every census. MP’s are supposed to represent all who live in a constituency not just those who register to vote, or are there now two classes of citizen?

    I am worried about these and I accept the need for change. Stop spinning this is about the referendum and answer some of the worries around the country. It is not just Labour peers, take a trip to East Cornwall and Plymouth and ask people who fear being joined into one constituency here.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 30th Jan '11 - 1:49pm

    Dear Chris Rennard,

    What concerns me most about this bill is that the proposed boundary changes will reduce the representation of some of the most disadvantaged inner city areas so that there will be a further shift of power from the cities towards the comfortable suburbs. That does, to me, smack of a Tory gerrymander so I’m inclined to sympathise with Labour attempts to resist it and, as with many other pieces of legislation currently going through Parliament, it saddens me to see Liberal Democrats fighting for what I perceive to be the wrong side.

    Any comment?

    Nick

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jan '11 - 3:10pm

    I will just confirm that the actions of Labour peers have been a disgrace, driving a coach and horses through Lords conventions, and putting at risk the whole way the Lords works (the most important of which is scrutinising legislation in a depth often not possible in the Commons). I will resist changes that compromise that in future but it should be understood that the conventions of the House operate on the basis of consent and self-discipline. eg not speaking for more than ten or at most 15 minutes, not repeating what others have just said, keeping to the subject being disucssed, grouping amendments sensibly. Most of all the opposition should take responsibility for getting through the business, not just the government. It usually works quite well. It has broken down completely on this Bill.

    “Groupings” of amendments are usually got through at the rate of four an hour – with an occasional “important” grouping taking an hour or more. On this Bill quite minor groupings have taken two hours and others four hours or more. If this were to go on indefinitely the opposition would be able to stop the Bill ever becoming law.

    But the government are also to blame: their lack of flexibility to achieve some things that have support all round the House – such as more flexibility on the 5% variation on the size of constituencies, and a few more “special cases” such as the IOW, Cornwall and the Highlands – has not helped.

    There has been a potential (and sensible) deal available on this Bill for at least the past two weeks and the failure to clinch it is (in my view) mainly on the government side. The irony is that the deal has substantial Liberal Democrat support.

    Tony Greaves

  • @Tony Greaves
    Couldn’t agree more, as I said in an earlier post, both sides need to grow up. Conventions are generally there for the better of all and once they a party start to ignore them they deserve what comes next (note the old and sad writ which I’m sure will be returned in kind at the first chance). There have been many chances for sensible compromise, unfortunately Chris Rennard and his ilk seem more intent on spinning this as anti AV referendum then attempting any real compromise.

    As you stated last week both sides need to play their part, the best Chris can do is point that the coalition are compromising having accepted his amendment….

    The attitude of some leading Lib Dems to this will yet again come home at the ballot box. For example in my area they tend to do quite well in Cornwall but they are underestimating the feelings regarding the cross Tamar constituency. Yet another Tory plan the Lib Dems will suffer for. You can bet Labour will campaign on this very point in 2015 on both sides of the water.

  • Chris Rennard 30th Jan '11 - 4:49pm

    @g

    No of course I am not suggesting that the motivations against civil rights legislation in the States in the 1960s are similar to those opposing electoral reform in Britain now. But the tactics employed are the same and are based on thwarting the apparent will of the majority in the legislature. Of course I really want radical constitutional reform -but fillibustering to try and prevent/delay/invalidate people having their say on electoral reform is not IMO democratic. Anyone following the debates (very hard to follow all of them I know) will see the clear link between those doing most of the fillibustering and their opposition to Parliament EVER agreeing to let voters have a say in how MPs are elected.

    @ Steve Way

    Good questions.
    1. Why 600? Most democracies set out the number of their MPs in a written constitution. We should do that but we don’t yet have a written constitution (although in some ways we are beginning to get there). I do not see how devolving a final decision to unelected Boundary Commissioners is more democratic than Parliament deciding.
    2. Why some exceptions for geographical reasons but not others ? The two island exceptions are the most obvious and quite different to anywhere more ‘easily’ connected to the mainland. On the Isle of Wight, I have previously argued to the Boundary Commissioners that it should have two seats.
    3. Why no consideration of the ability of constituents to access their MP ?
    No constituency would have the same degree of difficulty as Western Isles or Orkney & Shetland – especially in the modern age.
    4. Why no acceptance of the need for public hearings even when so elegantly put by Lord Woolf.
    There is a strong case for oral evidence if we do not push the timetable back so that most seats in 2015 are again fought on boundaries based on 2000 electorates. The Australian system for considering oral representations is very good. But formal public enquiries with barristers deploying contrived party political arguments should be a thing of the past. There could be better consultation inclusding online dialogue than under the old system.
    5. Why 5%? The Conservatives originally argued for 2.5%. So 5% is already a compromise. I have said in debate that there is more of a case for greater flexibility on this level than there is for Parliament looking at each constituency where someone says that it needs exceptional treatment. But a way would need to be found to prevent lots of legal challenges delaying the process in the way that some opponents of ‘equalisation’ seek.
    6. Why registered voters and not population? Because you have to base these sort of things on actual numbers rather than estimates. Otherwise the Commissioners would be drawn in to much greater political controversy. That is why the 5 General Reviews since 1945 have been based on electorates. Of course much more effort must be made to make the registers more complete and accurate. But advances made under the last Government (rolling registration) mean that December 1 2010 is a good starting point because hundreds of thousands of people registered to vote during the General Election campaign. Levels of registration may decline in future when Individual Voter Regsitration comes in – but this principle is a necessary safeguard against fraud agreed by all the political parties and the Electoral Commission.

    @ Nick (not Clegg)
    No. Every Boundary Review tends to reduce the number of seats where the number of electors is declining and create more seats where it is rising. It is hard to argue with that principle – especially if you actually believe in proportionality. Alternative methods of allocating the number of seats takes you back to the ‘rotten boroughs’.

  • @Chris Rennard

    1. Still no answer as to why 600. you’ve stated we should have a written constitution and I would not disagree, but not answered the question. Some research was surely done to identify the number why not share it? As to allowing an unelected boundary commision to decide. Two things firstly, it would remove the party political element and secondly, at present it is being decided upon by a bunch of unelected Lords!

    2. & 3. You are quite wrong. Whilst the two island constiuencies are a worst case Argyle and Bute and others including in North Wales are terrible infrastructure. the Government argument was one of using high tech alternatives to meetings. Not an option for some elderly and disabled constituents. Also these are some of the worst supported areas for broadband etc. Constituents needs to be able to have reasonable access to their MP, if the infrastructure does not support this an exception needs to be made.

    4. Again the online dialogue answer. We should have public hearings the amendment in this area was, I agree with Lord Woolf, perfectly sensible and would help avoid a potential raft of judicial reviews. There was also an amendment about publishing data. The real problem is that 5% trumps all and therefore public hearings will have little impact.

    5. 5% is too small, it means that all of the other issues the commision must take into account will probabkly amount to nothing. Without movement on this I see a great many more legal challenges as communities (backed by parties) will feel far more agrieved. I listened to an interesting debate regarding a Welsh constituency that due to other rules (such as cross Country borders) would have a huge geographical spread. More discretion is required if these situations are to be avoided.

    6. Why not use registered voters. You state ” December 1 2010 is a good starting point because hundreds of thousands of people registered to vote during the General Election campaign”. What about people who were so unmoved by any of the parties, or lived in the safest of seats that they didn’t bother ? A better idea if voters are to be used would be for a June 2011 cut off with a fully Government funded advertising campaign to promote registration.

    Finally, you head your article using the AV vote and yet it is clear to most who have watched the debates that this is not the issue. Perhaps you’d like to share what proportion of the amendments have related to boundary concerns and what has related to the referendum ?

    I think Tony Greaves words are very wise, both sides need to take responsibility for this, as the Government have decided to ignore any chance of real compromise to date, please tell us what other measures Labour could take at this time?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 30th Jan '11 - 5:19pm

    “Why registered voters and not population? Because you have to base these sort of things on actual numbers rather than estimates.”

    So we don’t have censuses?? There are over 4m unregistered voters – and the Tories and yourself both know very well that they are more likely to be concentrated among the young, the mobile and in Cities. You are prepared to address one bias in the system – but you are prepared to let another bias go unaddressed. One bias helps the Labour Party and is being addressed – who does the unaddressed bias help? Perhaps some of us want to genuinely improve the system regardless of our Party affiliation – and if it is politically controversial so be it (most extensions of democracy in this country have been if you have any understanding of history) – which is perhaps why the proposal should be considered properly in its own right rather than being linked to the AV referendum.

  • @Blahblah

    I think the tone of this debate was set by Chris Rennard and his gratuitous personal attacks on Tommy McAvoy. At the end of the day Chris Rennard has never stood for political office and never represented a constituency – I really can’t be bothered checking to see why he was made a Peer but a look at his CV leads me to the conclusion it may well have been been based on services to the LibDems. So I am not surprised to see what his opinions are on this subject.

    Still since he is such an expert in organising electoral victories for others in the LibDem party I am sure his old skills will soon be in great demand by his party.

    As I pointed out earlier I am singularly unimpressed with the promise he has been given.. LibDem MP signed pledges are worthless so what good is a promise that may or may not actually be considered by the Boundary Comission and even if they thought it worthwhile and recommended it then the Coalition could still ignore it. Not worth a curdy I’m afraid.

    However you stated: ‘I actually agree that the boundary changes are probably not a good thing but your emotive language and pugilistic attitude towards other posters are rapidly making me reconsider my view on the matter.’

    Well if your commitment can be so easily swayed I would suggest that you might as well support the changes to save yourself any further anguish. As to the IoW it wasn’t exempted to begin with, whereas the 2 Scottish seats were and you are correct one was SNP and one is LibDem. But I have to confess I didn’t see when the government made another exception for the IOW. What about the Welsh geographic problems then? But you still haven’t addressed the point as to why exceptions are OK in some cases and not others – and this has been decided by the Coalition and not an independent body.

    The Tory proposals are gerrymandering and you have the right to disagree with that – but it won’t detract from the truth that it is an attempt to change one bias for another which doesn’t cleanse the taint. And allowing the government of the day to determine the number of seats and seriously circumscribe the work of the Boundaries Commission reinforces that gerrymandering for narrow party political gain is underway.

  • @Steve Way

    The only explanation I have heard about the 600 was from a leading Coalition Peer – maybe Strathclyde – that it was ‘plucked from the air’. Seems about right.

    I am also perplexed that Mr Rennard thinks it better that David Cameron decides on having 600 seats rather than the ‘unelected’ but independent Boundaries Commission. Perhaps Mr Rennard has missed the point that the Tories aren’t actually the elected government and don’t have an electoral mandate for the change and neither do the LibDems. They have cobbled together this odious bill for purely party political gain.

    I find it hard to believe that he cannot see why it might be better for Democracy that a independent Speakers Commission and Boundaries Commission make the decision rather than a politically motivated one by the government of the day.

    I would also remind Mr Rennard that he is an unelected Peer and was never elected as an MP so I don’t give much credence to his opinion especially as he seems intent on not answering any real questions posed but just spinning that us nasty Labour supporters are out to do-in AV.

    If he really believes that then obviously he has fallen asleep during the fillibustering lullabies from Labour. If he wakes up in time then he should fight to split the bill – I just cannot see his problem in doing this.

  • Not sure what the controversy of 600 MPs is, I assume it is a figure come to after dividing the population of the UK by the number of constituencies and seeing if that seems like a reasonable number of people for each MP to represent on average. It is still more than just about any other countries primary legislating chamber has in it.

    So 60m (roughly) divided by 600 gives roughly 100 000 people per MP which seems reasonable to me. I have seen not one argument put as to why this figure is wrong and why.

  • Peter1919

    650 seems reasonable to me. I haven’t see anyone give a good reason why we should change it. Nor 700 nor 1000, nor 5!

    We haven’t seen any reasoning at all – rather it has been ‘plucked out of the air’.

    Surely the best view would be to have an independent commission decide (including all parties) that perhaps looks at the mechanism for redrawing boundaries. This is not something political parties or a Government should do in the face of parliamentary opposition! If Labour win in 2015 they will the be entitled do do the same again before the next election and so we go on….

    This is a squalid bill that should not be pushed through in this way.

    PS FPTP is always unfair – perhaps a fully proportional system would help. Tories not so keen on that though are they!

  • @Peter1919
    The logic behind 600 needs to be explained. It cannot be population based as this whole exercise is not based on population but registered voters (a weakness itself). If the number has been set because a study has examined where variances have to be made and then divided the population fine, let’s see it.

    The people who should make the decision is the boundary commision. They can take all factors into account and will set the number accordingly. They benefit from being independant and will stop this being a political football.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 31st Jan '11 - 9:50am

    One factor that everyone seems to ignore when it comes to the right constituency size is the volume of casework that should be undertaken by each MP. We have a system where as well forming the legislature MPs have a role in representing the interests of their constituents (regardless of party or whether they are on the electoral register) in dealing with government (and others) at all levels. There are a number of conscientous MPs that are already overloaded with case work – and for whom an increase in their constituency population will mean that something has to give – on the other hand there are a number of lazy so and sos who don’t see this as a problem. Perhaps if someone were to properly define the role of an MP – then it might be possible to set the size of a constituency at a sensible level. I’m afraid this is justy an other indicator that the proposed legislation has not been properly thought through and is being made as a hasty political fix.

  • @toryboysnevergrowup

    I’m not sure I would want to actually define the job of an MP as you can never ever cover everything. I think that basically they should be there to help their constituents in the broadest sense. In the main they act as postboxes for constituent problems which is fine as often the constituent hasn’t a clue where to go to resolve a particular problem.

    I realise some MPs are terrible but I would rather the electorate/local party selection deal with them. But even if it were to be a more formal mechanism I’m not sure that strictly defining their role would actually make any difference to the shirkers. One of the biggest probs I find with MPs is that some leave too much to their employees.

    On a separte issue to do with drawing-up the new constituencies – there seems to be a suggestion that the electoral roll figure will start being applied at one end of a country and as each ‘constituency’ is created the process will move on geographically.

    If this is adopted what kind of dog’s breakfast will we end up with by the time we get to the middle never mind the end?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 31st Jan '11 - 2:49pm

    EcoJon

    I don’t think I’m looking for a precise definition – but I’m making the more general point that you need to have some idea as to what the workload should be before making the decision as to the appropriate number of MPs. Would anyone in industry employing people just pick an arbitrary number out of the air as the Tories have done.

    My worry is that if the scheme goes ahead as planned then certain conscientious MPs will end up with casework loads which they cannot handle – especially in those constituencies with large numbers of unregistered voters e.g. inner cities where the need is the greatest e.g. what would the changes do to Simon Hughes casework load?

    Perhaps there should be some perfomance statistics for MPs with regard to dealing with casework – so that their constituents can make informed decisions about their MPs contribution. I notice that the current proosals do little about MPs holding second jobs.

  • Tony Greaves 31st Jan '11 - 3:26pm

    Steve Way should not rely on me too much. If the Labour peers had not behaved in such a disgraceful way (and a dishonest one considering their views on HoL procedures when in Government) they might have found it easier to reach compromises with the Government. It takes two to tangle.

    It is clear that the main effect of the appalling filbuster will be to prevent the referendum taking place on 5th May. The rest of the stuff could go on for months but still become law.

    On Cornwall Liberal Democrat peers have been prominent in pressing for Cornwall to be treated as one integral unit.

    We will see what happens this week.

    Tony Greaves

  • Just been stated in HoC that Cameron told the 1922 Committee that none of them would lose out following boundary changes and if any did they would get a Peerage.

    Wonder if the LibDems also getting the same sweetener.

    This is what happens when issues that should be decided by independent bodies are decided by the government of the day – no matter of what political complexion.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 31st Jan '11 - 4:41pm

    “The rest of the stuff could go on for months but still become law.”

    You may consider it “stuff “- but others including those undertaking the filibuster consider it pretty fundamental legislation for which there is not a clear electoral mandate and which should be subject to detailed and independent consideration. You are in effect defining good and bad filibusters according to your own political views – both Liberals and Tories have engaged in filibusters in the not too distant past.

    And why should bad legislation be hurried through so that the AV referendum is not delayed beyond 5 May – no political motivation there is there?

    Perhaps some might think that this is not the way to make consitutional change – and they would probably be right. The constitutional commission model used for Scottish devolution has a lot to commend it.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 31st Jan '11 - 4:46pm

    Perhaps before throwing accusations and insults at Labour peers – Lord Greaves and Rennard should give a precise and clear exposition as to where the electroral mandate for their proposed changes comes from?

  • @Tony Greaves
    Sorry for taking your words at face value. Unfortunately most Lib Dems in Westminster seem unable to see (or at least vocalise) any fault in the Government actions. You had done which was why I quoted you. The fact that you feel Labour are more at fault does not change this (or does it?). My actual words were: “I think Tony Greaves words are very wise, both sides need to take responsibility for this”.

    I merely pointed out that the Government have been picking a fight with this since day one and have not been willing to offer a single compromise. It certainly does take to to tangle as they are currently both demonstrating, of course it also takes two to Tango and unless both sides accept this there will be real damage done to the Lords.

    I do not support Labour and do not glory in these tactics as some on here do, but as yet not one Lib Dem has been able to explain what they could do differently to put effective pressure on the Government. As to the Cornwall issue, if the Government were taking it seriously they would have it an exception. A simple statement from the Government benches would begin to show that they are willing to move, in the absence of one I’ll stay sceptical.

    What amazes me is that even after all this debate there are still big questions that need answering. I follow politics and if I can’t get the answers people who don’t have no chance. Even when given chances for an easy compromise, such as on the reduction in ministers there has been only half hearted moves from Government benches. Which is why, for me, it is a plague on both their houses, Labour have behaved badly, but so have the Government.

  • “I took the trouble of looking up how often as Tommy McAvoy he had spoken in the House of Commons in the last four years. The answer was just once in four years when he muttered just four words. Now as Lord McAvoy he has spoken 77 times on this Bill. ”

    Interesting point in the Lords minutes ago. Apparently there is a convention (followed by both Labour and Tories) that Government Whips do not speak in the commons. Perhaps Chris Rennard could retract or explain further giving examples of other Government Whips ?

  • @Steve Way

    I was actually intending to point that out to Rennard till I saw that he had never been elected to public office – he who derides the unelected Boundary Commission. The brass neck is amazing. Dead easy to destroy constituencies when you don’t actually know what they really mean to any MP who cares about their people.
    He said: ‘I do not see how devolving a final decision to unelected Boundary Commissioners is more democratic than Parliament deciding’. – Says all really that needs to be said about the man

    Personally I would rather trust an independent unelected Boundaries Commission than an unelected Peer who quite possibly got his ermine after being a LibDem backroom boy. Having read how proud he was at getting the compromise he claimed – which isn’t worth a curdie – I couldn’t even be bothered checking back what his ‘services’ were for as quite frankly I don’t care.

    Apparently some kind of deal has been struck tonight in HoL but personally I wouldn’t bet that we’ve heard the last of this.

  • Interesting post and comments. I’m sure I used to know of people called Tony Greaves and CHRIS Rennard who supported proportional representation. AV is not PR. So why such concern to achieve a system that is no more proportional than FPTP, and in some circumstances can be significantly less so?

    As for Lord Rennards arguments for linking the two issues in one bill, is it not actually the case tht the coalition fears that if the issues are separated, Tory opponents of AV would refuse to back that part of the bill?

  • @Tim Swift

    Unless they were linked the AV part wouldn’t go through the Commons because of Tory votes against.

    So what we have is LibDem Democracy in action.

    No electoral mandate for the Constituency changes which are in themself undemocratic in certain aspects and then a squalid Coalition Agreement to find an articial majority for the legislation in the Commons so that the LibDems get AV and the Tories structure the system to their benefit without allowing the Boundaries Commission to act independently’

    And unelected LibDem Peers who have never been elected to public office squealing about fillibustering – Oh Really?

  • No electoral mandate for the Boundary changes? Umm Page 67 of the Conservative Manfiesto,

    “A Conservative government will ensure every vote will have equal value by introducing ‘fair vote’ reforms to equalise the size of constituency electorates, and conduct a boundary review to implement these changes within five years”

    the manifesto of the party which despite my best efforts secured the largest share of the vote and the largest number of MPs.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 3rd Feb '11 - 9:38am

    @Peter 1919

    The Tories did not win the election or a clear mandate (and it is not in the power of the LibDems to give them one in this regard) – and you should not be making constitutional changes without having a clear mandate. There is not a clear mandate for AV that is why it should be put to the country in an referendum. The electoral system is something which the electorate should decide upon.

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  • User AvatarJonathan Maltz 15th Nov - 12:48am
    John B: my comment was tongue-in-cheek. All Labour can offer given their well-known intransigence is to guarantee that the Tories will be the largest party...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 14th Nov - 11:42pm
    Jo Swinson says that the party "must give voters a genuine remain option" in the election. Quite right. The problem is that the party is...
  • User Avatarcrewegwyn 14th Nov - 11:30pm
    Thanks Mark.
  • User AvatarGaryE 14th Nov - 11:04pm
    David makes a valid point for seats with few resources and low membership. If central funds can pay deposits then £500 pays for 15,000 A4...
  • User AvatarDavid Sheppard 14th Nov - 9:20pm
    Thanks Mark for thinking of those not so well packed full of Liberals places like mine. We have had to fund from our own meagre...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 14th Nov - 8:27pm
    @ Mick Taylor, 13th November,7,31pm Whilst pacts are understandable given our FPTP system, maybe I am being obtuse , but don't they also reduce voter...