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:


Today’s poll found the idea of reforming the Lords, which still has 92 hereditary peers, is widely supported. Eight in 10 people back the idea of reform at some point in time. It is highest among Lib-Dems, at 87 per cent, and lowest among Conservatives at 75 per cent. Only 16 per cent of the public thought the chamber should be left as it is.

Here’s what Lib Dem MP Tom Brake had to say about the finding:

“Clearly people’s priority now is employment and growth, but … if you ask people whether it’s right that people should make laws just because their grandfathers and fathers did, they are gobsmacked by the notion.”

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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18 Comments

  • I found faintly “amusing” the early comments on the Standard article, dominated by two unreconstructed right wingers (sorry ‘whingers’) called ‘anonymous’ and ffhfhffh (I did say, faintly amusing!)

    These people who clearly want to ditch many ideas of radical – and often Lib Dem – origin, such as environmentalism, human rights etc. They are from the same stable as the shapers of this article. They think the only way to stop a measure of radicalism is by persuading them “there are more urgent priorities”. The idea that it is possible to address more than one priority in Government at any time, seems, conveniently, forgotten.

  • Liberal Neil 21st Jul '12 - 10:10am

    If all the people trying to stop Lords reform on the grounds that it is wasting valuable parliamentary time stopped arguing it would take up a lot less parliamentary time.

  • If Lotds reform needs a referendum to address a historical imbalance and unfairness, it strikes me that Boundary Reviews, given their more direct effect on voters – split of historic seats, wedging together of different counties etc might also benefit from a referendum………

    Surely that would be fine with Tories ??

  • LondonStatto 21st Jul '12 - 10:40am

    Of course the boundary review should be subject to referendum. After ask, there’s never been a change in the boundaries before, has there? And it’s not as if the Lib Dems haven’t already voted for the new boundaries, is it?

  • LondonStatto 21st Jul '12 - 10:45am

    Talking seriously for a minute, the entire Clegg constitutional project has been a mess. He proposed a new voting system for the Commons without ever deciding what its purpose should be, so we got a half-baked system that satisfied nobody and was deservedly rejected. If Lords reform goes the same way he’ll be the biggest failure of this government.

  • LondonStatto 21st Jul '12 - 11:13am

    Lords reform needs a referendum because it’s a major constitutional change – a bigger one than AV, which we got a referendum for. This is not difficult to understand.

    Supposed democrats who reject such a referendum are just scared the public will again reject an ill-thought-through plan.

  • Those numbers are really surprising. I wouldn’t have thought them quite so high, especially amongst Conservative voters. On the priority question, Lords reform is never going to be a priority, which is why it should be reformed without a referendum (it is an ironic joke surely to insist that people must have a vote to decide whether they should have a vote) and with timetabled Parliamentary progress … all three parties are committed to reform and all three parties’ voters want reform. As an American might say, it’s a total no-brainer.

  • @LondonStatto – it is a constitutional change, sure, but ones that move us towards more democracy are not ones, I believe, that require a referendum to endorse them. Would you have said, in 1918, that there shld have been a referendum amongst those who were fortunate enough to have a vote on whether it should be extended to all men over 21 and to all women over 28? In 1928 would you have said that there shld have been a referendum on whether to extend the franchise to all women aged 21 or over? What about electing the European Parliament from 1979; shld there have been a referendum on that? What about when we got rid of the lion’s share of the hereditaries whenever it was (late 1990s)? Some things are good things – electing those who govern us is a good thing – and does not require a referendum.

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Jul '12 - 12:06pm

    The question asks whether people want reform. It doesn’t ask whether people want the particular reforms on offer, so it is of little relevance to the current Bill.

    As with the AV debacle last year, Lib Dems are wrongly assuming that people who want reform will be happy to accept bad reform.

  • Denis Cooper 21st Jul '12 - 2:00pm

    The problem is that with 16% support “no change” could be the most popular option.

  • Let’s deal with this myth that Lords reform needs a referendum; it has been convention and practice that the electorate are deemed to have given their approval to measures included in a party’s manifesto. Both the Conservative and Lib Dem 2010 manifestos included commitments to Lords reform (as did Labour’s). While the Lib Dem manifesto included a commitment to electoral reform, the Conservatives’ did not. That is why there was a referendum on AV but one is not planned for the Lords. Quite frankly, if the voters don’t like it, perhaps next time they’ll pay more attention to what they’re voting for. That would be no bad thing.

    As for ‘prioroities’. I ask whether elected police commissioners, free schools and new academies were priorities for anyone outside the Conservative party?

  • How about an “opt-in” vote?
    Obviously not secret but one in which people can choose to have the democratic rights reformed or not.
    People can register to be able to vote for an appropriate proportion of the Lords, those who choose not to can have the remainder appointed for them.

  • @Stuart Mitchell & @jedibeeftrix – sorry, but that position is why 100 years after democratic reform of the Lords was first spoken about we are still here with a 100% unelected Lords. Democratise the Lords first then let others make the case for additional tweaks and changes. 100% unelected is 100% unacceptable.

  • “Quite frankly, if the voters don’t like it, perhaps next time they’ll pay more attention to what they’re voting for.”

    Ouch! The electorate must be feeling pretty small by now.

    But seriously, faced with these manifesto commitments from the three main parties (and more besides) how exactly would you have recommended someone who didn’t support Lords reform to vote in 2010?

    If you actually think about this for a minute, you’ll see that for the very reason you’ve given, the electorate has been given no electoral opportunity to express an opinion on Lords reform, and a referendum is the only way it’s going to get one.

  • Elliot Bidgood 21st Jul '12 - 5:55pm

    @Mark “Let’s deal with this myth that Lords reform needs a referendum; it has been convention and practice that the electorate are deemed to have given their approval to measures included in a party’s manifesto. Both the Conservative and Lib Dem 2010 manifestos included commitments to Lords reform (as did Labour’s). ”

    First of all, it’s British constitutional principle (albeit in a loose, unwritten and sometimes-abused sense) that referenda are expected within the framework of our otherwise-representative democracy when major changes to the process, constitution and structure of our democracy are proposed (e,g. devo, electoral reform. European integration etc), as these affects how decisions on all other matters are made. This is vital to maintain a coherent approach as when we do and don’t avoid referendums, and makes it easier to resist calls for referendums on non-constitutional matters. Admittedly, politicians have undermined the principle, especially with regard to European integration, but it needs to be upheld more often, not less. HoL reform is a good place to start.

    However, even if that argument doesn’t fly, can we also deal with the myth that because Labour’s manifesto contained a Lords reform pledge of some kind, “all three did” and there is no need for a referendum? Labour’s 2010 manifesto did call for reform, but it in no uncertain terms called for a referendum on Lords reform (“we will consult widely on these proposals…before putting them to the people in a referendum”), and since the votes of Labour MPs who were elected on that manifesto will be key to the passage of reforms, that makes it a legitimate point of debate. Between that and the constitutional principle, if the Coalition really wants Lords reform, it has to promise a referendum, if it wants reform.

  • So no need to fear a referendum then?

  • “So no need to fear a referendum then?”

    Unfortunately, a referendum would mean that all the undemocratic warts in this bill would get exposed on prime time and hence the public would see through the trick the MP’s and their parties are trying to pull off.

    So we can see the reason why Nick doesn’t want a referendum, in case we find out his commitment to democracy is superficial. Remember he thought he could sign the coalition without getting the prior approval of the LibDem membership…

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