Lords reform: the Liberal Democrat trio announced

Over the weekend Mark Valladares blogged about the three Liberal Democrats being appointed to the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny committee on Lords reform:

From the Lords, representing the constitutional wonk tendency (in a good way), Lord Tyler is the first of the two nominees. Paul has been leading calls for a complete overhaul of the Second Chamber for a very long time and is one of the Party’s foremost constitutional experts…

From the Commons, that rather unusual beast, a former member of the House of Lords, John Thurso. As he has already been abolished once, one wonders how he will feel about the prospects of enabling the abolition of all of his former colleagues. However, he is on record as supporting reform…

And finally, the second Lords nominee, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, of whom I have the highest regard, having married her just over three years ago. Ros has repeatedly voted to abolish herself…

There are more details in Mark’s full post. One Liberal Democrat who has also been vocal about Lords reform but not included is David Steel, whose latest reasons for arguing against the proposals for elections to the Lords were given a bit of a going-over by Paul Walter:

I felt like crying when I read his article in the Observer today. My first reaction was: “Shut up, why don’t you?” It is so frustrating to have a former Liberal party leader arguing against the coalitions’ Lords reform package.

But then you read through Steel’s arguments and you see that his position is built on sand.

Paul pokes the sand in his post here whilst on Sunday’s Marr show Paddy Ashdown also had some sharp comments to make:

It is an affront to our democracy to have a House of Lords which is appointed on the basis that you’re either a friend of the Prime Minister or your great-grandmother slept with the king. The truth of it is that we’re a democracy and power should appear from the ballot box … Of course there’ll be the old dinosaurs, the back woodsman of the Tory Party and the old guerrillas of Labour who will be opposing this, but the reality of it is that in a democracy power and parliament should devolve from the ballot box and from nowhere else

If you agree with Paul and Paddy (and with the idea of elections for the Lords) then you can always sign up to back the Liberal Democrats for Lords Reform campaign.

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  • But if it were true that the lack of election was an affront to democracy – why do the Clegg proposals for reform allow for 20% non-elected members and 19 years before some of the existing non-elected members are removed ? Give us democracy, but like chastity, not yet ?

    As a rallying cry for reform, it is absurdly pathetic. Lords reform was an objective of the Liberal Party long ago, but
    it would be absurd not to acknowledge that the Lords that blocked the people’s budget in 1909/10 is not the same as the Lords today.

    These rather awful proposal – which if it is successful will end up with party list PR on euro-constituency boundaries will mean Lord Farage and Lord Griffin.

    Democracy is about more than elections – it is about engagement between politicians and voters and government.

    The party missed the chance to drop the AV referendum and now faces losing 1/4 of it’s MP’s from boundary changes with out a single vote being lost – and this is something the Lib Dem negoiating team asked for !

    If the party really wanted to do soemthing useful – STV for existing elections – lcoal governemnet – Mayors, scotland, wales, Europe – all these should be way above Lords reform.

  • Don Lawrence 6th Jun '11 - 12:50pm


    I’m afraid you are missing the entire point. It’s not about Constitutional reform anymore. It’s about the continued existence of the Liberal Democrats as a viable party.

    We can continue to charge headlong into this dead end, with the Tories and Labour cheering us on (behind our backs so we don’t notice they actually like us doing it), or we can admit we messed up and try to stop making a bigger mess.

    Perhaps the wonks think HoL reform is more important than the Lib Dems – in that case, let them form a HoL Reform Wonks party. To use a phrase that echoed successfully in the not too distant past, “Not in my Name.”

  • Mark Pack – You talk about election being a prerequisite for engagement. Maybe – but would you say that the voters are engaged with the House of Commons? I realise that you are not per se saying that election is a panacea, but it does sort of raise the problem I have with the proposals, which to avoid doubt, I think have many good features.

    Where is the vision for the HoL? Going down the elected route is well and good in itself, but I do worry that this will just end up as, ‘more politicians and more politics,’ and a wannabe House of Commons. What I don’t really get any sense of is what the Lords will be for or what their role will be and how any of this improves governance. If this were put to a referendum what would the reforming message be – election = good? Fine, but it’s is not really the Great Reform Act is it?

    I would also agree with Don Lawrence that there needs to be some element of pragmatism. Going into battle on a niche issue with nothing more for protection than a rolled-up copy of the Guardian might not be the best idea.

  • Also worth pointing out that the cry for electoral from Paddy Ashdown is a bit hollow given that he was once in a position known in some parts of Europe as, ‘the Viceroy of Bosnia.’

  • Denis Cooper 6th Jun '11 - 8:16pm

    I don’t know much about Julia Goldsworthy – was she a rubbish MP?

    I only ask because it seems absurd that one person can persuade 15,903 electors to vote for them to be in Parliament, but not get into Parliament because another person persuaded 15,969 electors to vote for them instead, while a third person can be given a seat in Parliament for life without having to persuade a single elector to vote for them.

  • I doubt very much that the powers of whips will be curbed in the new Senate. Thus making it crucial to keep crossbenchers and lords spiritual, if we have any chance of keeping a check on the executive.

  • Denis Cooper 7th Jun '11 - 12:46pm

    As nobody at all voted for David Steel to be in the present Parliament, while 15,903 people did vote for Julia Goldsworthy to be in the present Parliament, would anybody other than Steel object if he was removed and replaced by Goldsworthy until the next general election?

  • Don Lawrence 8th Jun '11 - 8:35am


    I’m pleased to know you are confident we can do more than one thing at once. The question is, can we do any of the high profile ones well enough to gain any benefit at all?

    At present, the view on the streets is muted on Lords reform, no-one (other than the wonks) want us to do anything much, as there are so many more important things out there. But when it is used by the tabloids to hammer us, it will again be totally negative, with no counteracting positive, because people are hardly bothered. The sooner the air-heads who still want Lords reform to be one of our big things learn this, the better.

    Sadly the fact that you think that a longer version of why we should not ditch Lord’s reform is important, simply shows how out of touch with reality so many in our party are now becoming in this respect.

    Do something that people really care about. Not just what you want!

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