Tag Archives: constitutional reform

Against comfort blanket constitutionalism

At Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I committed a cardinal liberal offence. I voted against a pro-federalism motion, moved by Robert Brown and Lord Purvis. I opposed in sorrow and anger at the Party’s stasis on the constitutional question. I was also annoyed that attempts some of us made to secure a more robust debate at Conference on federalism, were rebuffed by Conference Committee. We were made to feel that the party bureaucracy did not want a real clash of ideas for Conference to resolve democratically.

The motion didn’t take practical steps towards advancing federalism any further than the Party already had. Its tone, if anything, made federalism more difficult to advance. Siobhan Mathers was right when she said in the debate that Lib Dems are excessively high-minded, believing they had more influence than was the reality on further devolution. Though the Campbell Commission reported first, it was outflanked by the Tory proposals on critical areas like welfare. The Party seems reluctant just to admit that, whatever the proximate cause, we lost our radical edge. We did not adapt to the shifting constitutional landscape even before the independence referendum.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes… Liberal Democrats fight to make sure local government reflects will of people

This year we celebrate the Magna Carta and the struggle for rights and liberties. The democratic rights of the people – our enfranchisement from the Great Reform Act of 1834 to the struggles of today and our belief that the voice of every person in the United Kingdom if registered to vote can carry some influence. This includes all men and women without regard to wealth, status or property rights. All 18 and over are included. In Scotland 16 year olds were able to vote in the recent Referendum and now throughout the United Kingdom there is a campaign to …

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Lib Dem Lords fight for votes at 16 in Council elections

The Liberal Democrat campaign for votes at 16 enters a new stage today as the Lords debates the Cities Bill. Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler has put down an amendment which would enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Council elections in England and Wales.

Labour have said that they will support Paul’s amendment. If it passes, it will then be up to David Cameron’s Conservative MPs to overturn it. I suspect that they will have no problem doing that given that young people are hardly top of their list of priorities at the moment. However, you don’t need many Tory rebels to threaten the Government’s majority. The only thing is that you would need the SNP to vote in order to defeat the Government in the Commons. If the SNP does vote on this entirely English and Welsh matter, you would be less likely to get the Tory rebels. The chances of it becoming law therefore seem slim at this stage.

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Carmichael accuses the Tories of abuse of process over English Votes for English Laws

Alistair Carmichael had a right old go at Leader of the House Chris Grayling over English Votes for English Laws. The Conservatives have chosen to take the easy route and merely amend Commons Standing Orders rather than have the House of Lords, where they don’t have a majority,  scrutinise it.

Questioning Mr Grayling in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:

If there are not to be two tiers of MPs in this House after these changes, what on earth does it mean to have a double majority at Report stage? I have to say I think it is an outrage that the Government are seeking to drive ahead with a fundamental challenge to the constitutional integrity of this House as the Parliament of the UK through Standing Orders. If the Leader of the House really thinks these proposals will bear scrutiny, he should bring forward primary legislation for proper scrutiny both on the Floor of this House and in the other place. If he thinks he can do that, let him come ahead and do it.

Grayling told him he was welcome to bring his proposals forward. After the exchange, Alistair said:

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Tackling the Tory Democratic Deficit

The advent of a Conservative government might once have meant no reform at all to our political system.  However, David Cameron is almost accidentally opening the door to a review of party funding regime, the electoral system and the procedures of the House of Commons.  During the Queen’s Speech debates, the Lib Dem team in the Lords has been tackling all three issues.

The Government wants to dry up some of the money available to Labour by placing restrictions on trade union funding.  The principle that trade union members should consent to their subscriptions funding a political party is quite right.  Yet it will be totally unbalanced to introduce that reform without something on the other side of the ledger, namely a cap on the large individual donations which fund the party arms race in spending.

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Opinion: Goodbye Salisbury Convention, hello UK constitutional convention

This Government is illegitimate.  We should resist it by all legal means possible.

Apparently, according to Sir Malcolm Bruce, all politicians lie at some point.  I don’t accept this is a good thing, but we should not have been surprised when the Prime Minister came out with this little gem on the day of the Queen’s Speech:

“We have a mandate from the British people.”

No Dave, you do not.

The idea of an electoral mandate is a simple one which I teach my A level Politics students.  You win a majority in the House of Commons, you claim the people have backed you, you get on with the job.

This is not democracy though.  Democracy, which I have also teach my students, means “people power.”  The idea fails for David Cameron on two levels:

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Paddick: Tories are playing a dangerous, divisive game over English votes for English laws

I still feel aggrieved that in the immediate aftermath of a bruising referendum campaign, our Prime Minister, rather than say something comforting and unifying, came out and picked a fight with Labour over English votes for English laws. Today, the Tories are highlighting their plans to resolve the constitutional conundrum. From the BBC:

Under the Conservatives’ proposals, the line-by-line scrutiny of new bills would be reserved for MPs from the nations affected by the legislation. A new grand committee of all English MPs – or English and Welsh MPs where appropriate – would also have to approve any legislation relating only to England.

Mr Cameron will promise firm proposals within 100 days of forming a government, which would be “fully implemented” by the time of the Budget in March of the following year.

Speaking on Question Time, Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney said the proposals ignored the fact that elements of income tax policy that will still apply to the UK as a whole would remain reserved to the Westminster government.

Labour says the issue should be considered along with other potential changes by a constitutional convention after the election.

The Liberal Democrats favour a grand committee of English MPs, with the right to veto legislation applying only to England, with its members based on the share of the vote.

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