Lord Falconer, wrong again

Having failed to derail the AV referendum with his highly implausible legal arguments, Labour peer Lord Falconer (who served in the previous Labour government, and was one of those who put the pressure on to have the Iraq war ruled legal) is at it again. This time he is trying to argue that people should vote No to AV because it will bring down the Coalition government and hasten Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street without having to wait for any general election.

Except that it won’t.

Lord Falconer is right in as much as the Coalition’s program of constitutional reform is an important part of why it got Liberal Democrat support. But he’s deeply wrong to think that it’s just about an AV referendum.

Here’s just one of several reasons why he’s wrong: reform of the Lords. Proposals for introducing a mostly elected upper house, by proportional representation no less, will get published in the next few weeks. The Conservatives are signed up to voting these proposals through Parliament before the next general election.

What happens if the government falls? Those proposals bite the dust, and the record of the Labour government over three full Parliaments was that elections for the Lords was frequently promised and never delivered. So far, given the record of Conservatives in voting through other reform measures they don’t like but which were in the Coalition agreement, Conservative votes for Lords reform look a far more likely route to getting elections than a return to a Labour Party of always promising, never delivering.

Yes, it’s a bizarre topsy-turvy world where Conservatives who don’t want reform are a better way of getting elections for the Lords than Labour who talk a good game. But that’s where Labour’s record in government leaves us; lots of talk, no delivery.

Though perhaps it’s not surprising that an unelected peer who spent so many years in a government that kept on stalling on its promises to introducing elections thinks it shouldn’t really matters if it’s all kicked into the long grass yet again…

Lords reform is just one of several reasons why Lord Falconer is wrong, though it’s telling that he thinks the best way to defend first past the post is to look for arguments other than those over how voting systems operate to do so.

Note: the Liberal Democrat Yes campaign is stepping up a gear later this week and we’ll be covering that here too. In the meantime, I should also add that Ed Miliband’s speech in favour of AV – including the section about Nick Clegg – was rather better than I was expecting. Though Labour colleagues such as Lord Falconer and those planting false stories with The Guardian are putting tribalism ahead of Labour’s own manifesto, Ed Miliband didn’t take that route at all in the speech. Credit to him for that.

UPDATE: I’ve updated the reference to the Iraq war as it wasn’t very clear first time round.

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  • Do you ACTUALLY think the Tories will let Lords reform go ahead? Seriously?

  • Paul Griffiths 17th Mar '11 - 8:00pm

    If the Conservative Party doesn’t want a mainly- elected chamber to replace the House of Lords, they probably shouldn’t have put it in their manifesto,

  • “(b) it’s in the Coalition agreement and, so far, Conservative Parliamentarians have been willing to vote for things they don’t like but which are in the agreement”

    Hahaha, very funny. The Coalition Agreement also signed the Conservatives up to “robust action to tackle bankers’ bonuses”, and no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Have you not realised yet that the Tories feel free to violate their end of the bargain repeatedly, while the Lib Dem ministers are too feeble to get them to abide by it?

    Already, we’ve seen more than 70 Tory MPs rebel against the Coalition – do you really think there won’t be more than that rebelling against a PR-elected HoL which would see the Tories’ policy-making impact decimated? The only reason it hasn’t resulted in a Coalition defeat thus far is the Tory rebellions have never coincided with Labour MPs voting the same way – that won’t be the case on HoL reform if Labour sees a chance to destroy the Coalition.

    Trust me – once Clegg publishes these plans, the backlash from Tory MPs and peers will mean it’s kicked into the long grass quicker than you can say “I pledge to vote against a rise in tuition fees”.

  • “The Coalition Agreement also signed the Conservatives up to “robust action to tackle bankers’ bonuses”, and no top-down reorganisation of the NHS.”

    To say nothing of raising Capital Gains Tax to “rates similar or close to those applied to income” …

  • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Mar '11 - 9:46am

    I suspect that when Falconer wants lessons on tribalism from someone who as far as I can see has yet to utter a single serious criticism of how the LibDems in government have behaved he will ask for them.

    As far as I can see the one reasonable argument I can see against AV at present is that it might shock LibDem party members to do something about the undemocratic faction that has taken over their Party. So have the NHS reforms been dropped yet?

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