PM4PM? If so, it’ll be the Lib Dems’ fault

Yes, the silly season has started right on cue, with ‘mounting speculation’ (newspaper code for: 2+ journalists writing the same thing) that the next Labour leader might be none other than Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham. This is, of course, utter rubbish, as everyone who’s written up the notion has been forced to concede.

But IF the impossible were to occur, and Peter Mandelson were to ascend to Number 10, he would do so thanks to one man, Liberal Democrat peer, Lord (Andrew) Phillips of Sudbury. Wikipedia takes up the story:

In July 2006, to the surprise of many people, Lord Phillips of Sudbury announced his intention to resign from the House of Lords at the age of 67 (the average age of members being 68). He criticised the “cascades” of legislation that the Labour government had introduced:

It is seriously counter-productive. No society can absorb a net increase of statute law of eight or nine thousand pages a year.’

He said he would pursue other interests, and would no longer be just a “weekend husband” to his wife.
He had wanted to vacate his seat in the House of Lords, revert to being known as Mr Phillips, and allow “new blood” from his party to take his seat. However, although hereditary peers may disclaim their titles under the Peerage Act 1963, life peers are unable to renounce their titles, and continue to hold them for life. Therefore, Phillips is to take leave of absence from the House, meaning he will be unable to attend or vote, but could return at a month’s notice.

Lord Phillips’ stand is prompting a change in the law, currently being guided through the House of Commons by Jack Straw as part of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. As Carl Gardner notes on The Wardman Wire blog:

Part 3, clauses 29 and 30 will allow peers to resign from the Lords and disclaim their peerages; and clause 30(6) and (7) will free them to stand for election to the Commons. It’s already being suggested this is a “Mandelson clause“, which will allow the Lord High Everything Else to stand for the Commons and lead his party.

So, there you have it: if PM4PM moves from beyond being a slogan into reality, then it will be the Lib Dems wot done it.

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9 Comments

  • He’d only end up having to resign (again) at least as a peer he has a job for life

  • Can you really see the left of the Labour party accepting Mandelson as leader???? He has the potential to split the party even deeper than the SDP split in the early 80s!

  • I thought Mandelson and Campbell decided last year that the Labour project was doomed unless they brought some sense into the Brown premiership. As they have failed to do this, Plan B is for PM to go for PM. The two of them (with Blair) have destroyed the old Labour party so I’m not sure what Pm is intending to take over, unless its a new labour rump and hte LibDems. Don’t underestimate the man. He may fail but it won’t be for want of trying.

  • The so-called “Mandelson clause” is no such thing. It is already in effect as part of the 1963 Peerage Act (although maybe phrased differently). If it gets a name at all, then it would be the Tony Benn clause, as that was who it was constructed for:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Benn#Peerage_reform

    If Mandelson wants to resign and go back to the Commons, he can already do so.

  • Malcolm Todd 5th Aug '09 - 8:43am

    @Alex
    No, Mandelson can’t resign as the law stands. The Peerage Act specifically allows “any person who … succeeds to a peerage” — where “succeeds to” means “inherits”, not “is appointed to” — to resign their peerage, and what’s more, only if they do so within twelve months of succeeding.
    That said, I find it hard to believe that even a man of PM’s superb capacity for self-belief and self-delusion could imagine that he could win a Labour leadership election. Unless he’s working on a way to avoid the need for any such pesky thing as an election…

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