Tag Archives: constitutional reform

The graph which shows how many Tory, Labour and LibDem voters support House of Lords reform

The London Evening Standard reported this week a new poll under the headline Even Lib-Dems say Lords reform is not a priority. Buried two-thirds of the way down, however, was this interesting data:

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Opinion: Lords reform – how Labour could learn from the Germans

Labour clears the way. So says the century-old Labour campaign poster depicting working men smashing down the door to the House of Lords. Oh dear. Given the opportunity earlier this month to live up to that proud boast they sided instead with rebel, anti-reform Conservatives and together succeeded in forcing the Government to abandon a vote on its proposed timetable for the bill.

Without the timetable, those who, for whatever bizarre reason, don’t believe that the governed should elect those who govern them could talk until the cows come home, ensuring the reform bill is killed off.

Labour could easily have sided with the Government. The …

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The compromiser’s dilemma: House of Lords reform

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentYou propose something. Someone objects to it, giving many reasons. You offer to make some changes to meet some of the objections. A deal is made and progress is achieved.

A perfectly normal sequence of events, both inside and outside politics and whether the matter is as mundane as what to eat for dinner tomorrow or as public as the wording of Parliamentary legislation.

One big …

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Opinion: The myth of the referendum convention

All three major parties committed to Lords Reform in their 2010 General Election manifestos, however Labour promised an elected Second Chamber via a referendum. This explains why Labour MPs dragged their heels during the Second Reading of the Lords Reform Bill, though a cynic may suggest that Labour did so not as its job as Opposition but because of a more insidious agenda to break up the Coalition. Nevertheless, Labour profess that their opposition stems from a belief that ‘constitutional convention’ requires that the Bill must include a …

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Opinion: Presidents, mops and turkeys – The future of House of Lords Reform?

Whilst recalling the successes of the 1997 General Election, in which the Liberal Democrats earned a net gain of 28 seats, Paddy Ashdown brought his speech at a commemoratory reception hurtling into the present with talk of the now embattled Lords Reform Bill.

In a manner delivered only by a character such as Paddy, he proclaimed that the current proposals were of Lincolnian proportions in that they existed to

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Opinion: Lords reform – the lies & lessons from the AV referendum

I invite you to join me in a thought experiment. Let’s imagine Lords Reform has been passed as an Act. But let’s also imagine the Act includes a commitment to a referendum…

A Lords Reform referendum will be perceived as a Liberal Democrat ‘fix’, much like the AV referendum. This perceived fix, in the eyes of the electorate, is personified, regrettably, in Nick Clegg. According to UK Polling Report, Clegg’s

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Opinion: Why a referendum on second chamber reform would be good for the party

The Liberal Democrats built their electoral success on the three ‘Cs’: Concentrate, Communicate and Campaign. The campaigning zeal of the Party took us from a handful of councillors and a few MPs dotted around the Celtic fringe in the mid ‘Seventies to a truly national party, with over 3,500 councillors, 60MPs, power and influence in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, power and influence in over 150 councils, from Newcastle to Newquay, Liverpool to Islington.

Campaigning is the life blood of the movement we endeavour to create around the drive to seize and redistribute power. We do this by the simple means of helping people to take and use their power in their communities. Campaigning succeeds by involving people beyond the party in our campaigns. It energies and strengthens communities and nurtures the tolerance that comes from understanding others and identifying the common causes that link us. These common causes centre upon the injustice stemming from subjection to illegitimate power – be that banks that gamble with our money and provide shocking service, supermarkets that drive farmers to ruin and fix prices or bureaucrats who entangle citizens in red tape and restrict people’s opportunities.

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PMQs: Balls! Balls! Balls! Balls!

By golly by gosh, I think Ed Miliband has finally got in the swing of this Prime Minister’s Questions thing. While Cameron reeled from his Tuesday night beating by a right Jesse, the leader of the opposition appeared poised, relaxed and skilful. He’s learnt the knack of brevity and humour, as his first question demonstrated:

At this last Question Time before the recess, may I remind the

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The best reason for House of Lords reform is one almost nobody mentions

My post from last year is rather relevant again, so here it is with some slight updates:

The voters have cast their verdict and an MP is out of office. What should happen to them next? Most people’s answers are somewhere on the spectrum from the polite (let them tidy up their affairs and see their staff properly treated as their contracts end) through to answers best not published before the watershed.

But our political system has a remarkable answer.

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Lord McNally writes… Conscience and reform

Shirley Williams has recently been made Peer of the Year in one of the regular Parliamentary Awards. Eric Avebury was recently given a life time achievement award at a ceremony in the Speaker’s House. Matthew Oakeshott received praise for his persistence in pointing out that there is much in our banking system which is rotten and in need of reform. When issues affecting children are debated in the Lords it is often Joan Walmsley who holds the House with informed and practical opinion. Ditto when Margaret Sharp speaks on science, technology and higher education. Sally Hamwee and Martin …

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Lords reform, Labour and the three key tests

Ed Miliband’s decision to insist on Labour backing House of Lords reform at the Second Reading vote in the House of Commons is an important and welcome one. That it was opposed by senior Labour figures such as David Blunkett probably reinforces the views of many Liberal Democrats of Blunkett and co, but it should also remind us that Miliband’s decision and leadership on this is not trivial. It is something House of Lords reformers in all parties should welcome.

More cynical people may wonder if Labour support on the Second Reading will be a distraction tactic from them trying to sink Lords reform at a later date, whether with or without Miliband’s implicit backing. There are three main opportunities for that.

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Coming up in the Lords: 25-29 June

It’s all gone a bit quiet at the more civilised end of the Palace of Westminster, after the mayhem that came at the end of the last Parliamentary session. That isn’t to say that it’s dull, but there is rather more debate and scrutiny than voting.

The Crime and Courts Bill has reached its Committee stage, and Days 3 and 4 take place on Monday and Wednesday next week. I have to admit that I understand precious little of this, even after reading the various (astonishingly lengthy) amendments, …

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Video: Lords Ashdown and Phillips clash over second chamber reform

This was already covered by Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice last month, but, in case you haven’t seen it, it is worth viewing this good-humoured but impassioned clash in the House of Lords between Paddy Ashdown and Andrew Phillips. Most entertaining.

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Lib-Lab cooperation: there’s one easy way to find out if Labour are serious

Today’s Guardian big-ups a call by Labour’s chief whip in the Lords, Lord Bassam, to his Lib Dem opposite number Lord Newby as a sign that ‘elements of the party are preparing the ground for a possible Lib-Lab coalition after the next election.’

I have to say on first reading the tenor of Lord Bassam’s note strikes me more as told-you-so than conciliatory, but maybe I’m being over-sensitive — judge for yourselves from this excerpt:

“The last couple of years have been a bit bruising for your colleagues in this house, and no doubt they will be looking forward to

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How referendums are the most effective way to maintain the status quo & what it means for Lords reform

Warning: this post contains paradoxes and thinking in progress…

Paradox 1: When asked, most people in this country say the current system of British politics needs to change. Yet the public consistently votes for small-c conservative parties and causes.

Paradox 2: As both a liberal and a democrat, I want a more participative democracy. Yet I’m sceptical referendums are the best way to achieve this.

A brief history of referendums in this country

Let’s take a look at our three most recent experiences in this country of referendums:

  • Just three weeks ago, 11 cities in England voted on whether or not they

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DPMQs: De facto but not de jure Fruit Ninja

MPs are always queuing up in droves to ask a question of the Deputy Prime Minister. He is what the Speaker describes as “box office”.

The subjects at this monthly session can, however, be a bit repetitive. House of Lords reform, electoral registration and lobbying all tend to pop up every time.

Helen Grant (Con) was anxious to get the Royal Sucession changes on the statute books pdq. But Nick Clegg reassured her that, should the Duchess of Cambridge undergo successful confinement resulting in a female happy event, …

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When did the Tories stop supporting Lords reform?

From all the debate and angst within the Tory party over the issue of House of Lords reform you’d imagine the plan to inject an element of democracy into the UK parliament had been foisted on David Cameron by sneakily obsessive Liberal Democrats.

Yet the reality is somewhat different. The Coalition Government’s pledge to overhaul the revising chamber (after Labour’s successive, botched failures) built on Tory promises to the electorate over a decade or more — recognising perhaps that such reform is in fact in their own interests.

Here’s what the Tory manifesto said as far back as 2001:


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MORE SHOCK NEWS: Bill that was going to be in Queen’s Speech will be in Queen’s Speech

Pick and mix your allocation of blame between some Tory right-wing MPs and some political journalists, between deliberate deceit and genuine confusion as you wish, but as the dust settles on yesterday’s political stories about the Queen’s Speech the news is remarkably dull:

  • A Bill that was not going to be in the Queen’s Speech will not be in the Queen’s Speech, and
  • A Bill that was going to be in the Queen’s Speech will be in the Queen’s Speech.

Or in other words, ignore the nonsense about how the absence of an equal marriage Bill from the Queen’s Speech means the government …

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LibLink: Paul Tyler and Andrew Adonis: Reform the House of Lords now and it can survive

Over on the Guardian’s Comment is free, Paul Tyler and Andrew Adonis say that the second chamber is costly and unrepresentative, and that only radical change will head off the abolitionists:

Whatever opponents say, the status quo is not a realistic option. When the majority of hereditary peers were excluded in 1999, Lords’ membership fell to 666. By the last election, it had risen to 706 and today it is 786. If those on leave of absence resumed their seats, the figure would rise to 807.

Since the pace

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Opinion: Lib Dems should not fear a Lords reform referendum

We got battered last year. So it would only be natural if we were to be a little wary of plunging headlong into another referendum for changing our political system so soon after the public rejected our proposal for AV for the Commons by such a wide margin.

There are now rumblings from Conservative MPs and also the Labour leadership that any change to the Lords should be subject to a referendum. Nick Clegg has strongly argued that this is …

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Clegg: Just “get on with” Lords reform

From BBC News online:

Nick Clegg has urged politicians from all parties to “get on with” reforming the House of Lords, despite disquiet among Conservative MPs over the plans…In an interview with BBC One’s Sunday Politics, Mr Clegg said: “The principle that people who make the laws of the land should be elected by the laws of the land would strike most people in the country as fairly uncontroversial.

“It’s something we have been talking about for 100 years. We should just get on with it now,

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LibLink: Chris Rennard – how the Lords reminds him of Lesotho

Writing for Public Service, Lord (Chris) Rennard has focused on just how unusual the House of Lords is:

In one of the many debates in the House of Lords about its future, I recently explained how, “like many noble lords, I take great pleasure in occasionally being able to show visitors around this place. Sometimes they are parliamentarians from other countries. Often they ask ‘How do you become a Lord?’ When you begin by explaining that perhaps your ancestors fought with the King in battle hundreds of years ago, or perhaps that they were what have been called ‘special friends’ of

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DPMQs: Trading attacks, squalidity and the long grass commission

Another Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions and another set of traded attacks. Harriet Harman has a go about the 50p tax rate and tax credit cuts. Nick Clegg lobs back this salvo:

Next month, this Government will take more than 1 million people on low pay out of paying income tax altogether. Next month, we will deliver the largest cash increase in the state pension ever. There will be no more of Labour’s 75p pension insults. Next month, thousands of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive an uplift

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Norman Lamont is an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed

Yesterday Conservative peer Norman Lamont was the latest in a sequence of Tory peers to take to the pages of ConservativeHome to argue against their own party’s policy and opposed elections to the House of Lords.

However, he is also an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed, for he is just the sort of MP I had mind when writing a piece for Left Foot Forward last year:

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Why Tory Euro-sceptics should back Nick Clegg

Writing for ConHome, Lord Michael Dobbs argues against reform of the House of Lords because elected peers would behave differently from unelected peers:

I would demand more influence, a stronger voice, and that new power could come from only one place – the House of Commons.

There’s two flaws with that argument. The first, the most obvious, is the question of why, if such a transfer of power happens, should we fear it? Taking power away from elected politicians and giving it to the unelected is certainly often to be feared (though not always – judges and juries, not ministers, should …

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Warning to Lords: if you play silly buggers with Lords reform, you’ll lose your say

The last few days has seen seep into the media an idea that has been doing the rounds of pro-Lords reformers in government for a little while.

It is an answer to the question of how the Coalition Government could get Lords reform through the Lords itself without the legislation being bogged down in filibustering and disruptive tactics designed to wreck other legislation. For all the childish temper tantrum tinge to the views of some peers (mainly Conservative) – ‘if you dare take away my place in the Lords, I’ll scream and I’ll scream and I’ll wreck all your bills’ – it is a serious threat. Because, after all, unelected peers don’t have to worry about making themselves look ridiculous, out of touch or petulant in the eyes of the electorate as they’re currently blessed with a seat in Parliament for life, regardless of what the public thinks.

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Nick de Bois is wrong on Lords reform

Conservative MP Nick de Bois put an apparently appealing case on Lords reform at the weekend – yes, let’s get rid of hereditaries, but hey, let’s not rush:

Lords reform should not be rushed.

Appealing that is, if you’ve missed out on the last century.

Because not only is it a century since further Lords reform was first promised by a government, but in the interim that have been proposals, debates and schemes aplenty.

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The failure of David Steel’s Lords reform measure is good news

The attitude of former Liberal Party leader David Steel to Nick Clegg’s House of Lords reform proposals has been lukewarm at best. Although the party he headed up repeatedly called for a democratic upper house, Steel has not been supporting Nick Clegg’s attempt to turn those often made demands into policy. He even signed a cross-party letter against the proposals that was published the day of Clegg’s formal announcement.

Instead, Steel has been pursuing a different, much more modest, line – arguing that some modest reforms can be secured and they should be banked immediately as radical reform will take …

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Clegg signals new approach to individual voter registration in evidence to Parliamentary committee

Last Wednesday saw Nick Clegg return for his annual appearance before the  House of Lords Constitution Committee. As one might expect, a whole range of political reform and constitutional issues were covered in the 90 minute evidence session.

One interesting answer by the Deputy Prime Minister which caught my attention was on the topic of individual voter registration. Asked by Liberal Democrat peer Lord (Chris) Rennard whether there would be changes to the government approach as set out in the earlier White Paper when we see legislation on the issue soon, Clegg had the following to say:

The short answer is ‘yes’….We

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Opinion: Why is Nick Clegg being quite so wrong on Lords reform?

If there is one thing taken for granted amongst Lib Dems it is that the House of Lords needs radical reform. In fact, most Lib Dems would go further than that. Like Cromwell, they would abolish the Lords outright, to be replaced with a Senate or not at all. But there are a substantial minority who, like me, think this is the wrong approach.

In an otherwise excellent speech before Christmas Nick Clegg set out his stall as a fervent abolitionist. He used the rhetoric of Lloyd George to express his purported frustration with the, er, hereditary system which was …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 16th Oct - 7:52pm
    Should there be a confirmatory referendum of party members? (since OMOV).
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 16th Oct - 7:46pm
    Whatever happens, there'll be no end to conflict and division for years to come. What are the options? 1) We remain in the EU. Leavers...
  • User AvatarGraham Martin-Royle 16th Oct - 5:58pm
    If anyone wants to introduce compulsory photo id then they must be willing to issue it free of charge. There also needs to be a...
  • User AvatarSteve Trevethan 16th Oct - 5:49pm
    Has H.M.G., or any other body, produced indicative figures of the number of citizens likely to be obstructed from voting?
  • User AvatarDilettante Eye 16th Oct - 5:48pm
    expats “..according to the Brexit Secretary, Boris Johnson ‘will ask EU for extension’ if no Brexit deal by Saturday…” That’s not quite accurate. What he...
  • User AvatarMark Seaman 16th Oct - 5:45pm
    I agree with Malcolm. The current voting system is all too vulnerable to fraud, and with the high number of repeated non-voters, there is a...