Crossbenchers increasingly hostile to Labour as government makes boundary changes

Increasing anger from crossbench peers at Labour’s filibustering in the Lords looks to be preparing the way for either Labour backing down or (for the Lords) highly unusual procedural decisions to end the filibustering. As I put it earlier in the week, if Labour loses the support of the crossbenchers, it will not only lose the struggle over this bill but weaken its ability to successfully oppose other legislation in the future.

At the same time, the government has been showing its willingness to listen to scrutiny rather than filibustering by agreeing to two changes to the ways in which the new rules for drawing up Parliamentary boundaries would work.

The Guardian reports,

Crossbench peers were urged by Cameron at a private meeting to recognise that the government has made genuine concessions on the bill and that a group of Labour peers are abusing the procedures of the Lords to prevent legislation reaching the statute book. He wants the peers to take the rare step of agreeing to a guillotine of the bill, ending centuries of total self-regulation.

Paul TylerThe two changes are ones that Liberal Democrat peers Paul Tyler and Chris Rennard have been pushing for, namely giving greater consideration to existing constituencies boundaries and to ward boundaries.

Although getting within 5% of the electoral register quote for a constituency is still the determining criteria, these two changes will mean that when there are options two or more of which all meet the 5% target, then more consideration will be given to reducing the level of disruption to existing boundaries and to avoid crossing ward boundaries.

There have been various stories put about how ward boundaries will need to be crossed all over the country under the proposed rules, though in fact the modelling that the party has done along with detailed modelling carried out by others shows that ward boundaries will only need crossing in very exceptional, if any, cases. However, by giving ward boundaries slightly greater formal weight may reassure some.

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13 Comments

  • The world will not stop if ward boundaries are broken for constituencies as in many cases they are themselves highly arbitrary.

    Given the size of many Met wards they often contain different communities or split logical communities in order to make the numbers add up.

    I grew up in Shaw – however the house was actually in Crompton ward by some way and large chunks of Crompton ward would be regarded by people as being in Shaw.

    Labour certainly didn’t have any regard for the sanctity of ward boundaries when they drew up boundaries for County seats in Burnley, every single one of which split a district ward into 2 – curiously splitting the strongest Lib Dem ward in a way which could not even vaguely be said to create a natural community!

  • “the government has been showing its willingness to listen to scrutiny rather than filibustering by agreeing to two changes to the ways in which the new rules for drawing up Parliamentary boundaries would work.”

    Making changes at the behest of Government benches is not showing a willingness to listen to compromise. Allowing the boundary commision leeway would be a start (5% is not enough and a set 600 seats is also a change from setting a target amount). Accepting that geographical issues are a factor in more than the selected ‘exceptions’ would also help. There is also the fact that registered voters and not population is the measure to be used. An MP’s workload is not decided by those who register to vote, but by those who require assistance within their constiuency. Inner City areas appear to be most disadvantaged by this.

    There are real concerns that this is rushed and poor legislation. If the Government had split the bill. gone through the usual pre-legislative consultations this could have been avoided.

    There is no reason to miss the AV vote, a sensible delay to allow proper consideration of the impact of the changes on communities is what is needed.

    Nobody like to see the stunts being currently used by Labour, but in this matter the Government is it’s own worst enemy. Amongst the dross there have been some very good issues being identified. Not one has been accepted as compromise.

    Of course a proportional system would avoid the need for any of this.

  • @Mark Pack
    Firstly, you are right that I would not support or be against any measure because Labour did or did not implement it. In the words of my O Level Physics Teacher they were a “constant dissapointment to me”.

    However the points you raised are as relevant as others. This really does seem to me to be bad, rushed legislation. Amongst the rubbish that has been spoken there have been some very good points raised. Geographical size, in conjunction with poor transport infrastructure, makes access to ones MP harder. The Government answer was to use new technology. This is no answer at all to many particularly the elderly. there is also the fact that the areas affected ar amongst the worst supported in terms of broadband etc.

    My view is the limits are too hard. 5% is not enough to make realistic compromises in some areas. 600 is too rigid a number, whereas 600 within x% would give scope to allow sensible decision making to occur.

    Again all of this would be solved with the truly proportional system I would prefer.

  • Mark, if the lib dems and the Conservatives are so concerned about equal votes why didn’t they vote for the ammendment to the AV bill that called for a vote on STV>

    We both know that neither the lib dems or the Conservatives are support this bill because it will make more votes ‘equal’- if they wanted this they would support STV, the only way of achieving this goal.

    And you suggestion that it would make people’s votes more equal doesn’t even hold anyway. Firstly the only way to this would be by making all constituencies marginal, and that would still mean people who voted for a third party would not have the votes count for anything. Secondly, weighting the vote in favour of registered voters will indubitably take power away from people who are not registered to vote, but who may become politically motivated in the future.

    Part of living in a democracy is that the people who don’t always take part politically are not penalised because of this, since they still have the potential to make use of their democratic right.

  • The Crossbenchers are government stoodges. This game changing piece of legislation was forced through the Commons and is now going to be forced through the House of Lords without proper scrutiny. The Tory dominated Coalition has packed the House of Lords for just such a purpose. Such action suggests that the word ‘Democrat’ should be excised from the name ‘Liberal Democrats’ forever.

  • MacK, you’re clearly not a close follower of the House of Lords if you think the crossbenchers are government stooges. Hell, even the peers of governing parties are rarely stooges (as Mark’s point about Lords Tyler and Rennard pressing for changes indicates).

    If you think the bill isn’t getting adequate scrutiny I recommend some Hansard reading. You might want to set aside a week or two to read the eight full days of debate of the floor of the House of Commons and 16 full days (and quite a few night hours) of debate so far in the Lords. There are three further days of committee stage debate scheduled for next week and report and third reading will follow that.

    This is an almost unprecedented amount of scrutiny for what is really a fairly short (19 clauses) and uncomplicated bill. Bills 20 times as long have generally had a tiny fraction of this amount of scrutiny in the past.

    On a separate note, if anyone has done modelling of the possible arrangements under the new system that is publicly available (Anthony?) I’d be interested to see it.

    George

  • Stuffing the House of Lords with unelected, unaccountable Peers who will force through legislation to deprive the House of Commons of 50 elected, accountable representatives of the people is an outrage to democracy. The Labour Peers who are resisting this have the admiration of the Labour Movement.

  • MacK – I’m a little confused by your comment. The democratically elected House of Commons has voted for this legislation and the Labour peers in the Lords are attempting to block it. Whether or not you agree with the proposals in the Bill, I struggle to see how that can possibly be characterised as the Coalition using the Lords to force its will on the Commons.

  • George C

    “MacK, you’re clearly not a close follower of the House of Lords if you think the crossbenchers are government stooges.”

    So Cameron didn’t have a meeting with the crossbenchers to urge them to come on side? He wouldn’t try that with Labour Peers would he? He knows what their response would be!

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