Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Lords Reform White Paper

Sounds like an absolute mess, from its brief introduction just now. The somewhat surprising thing, however, is that in (Tory Shadow Leader of the House) Theresa May’s response to (Labour Leader of the House) Jack Straw’s introduction, I’m finding myself agreeing with pretty much every single word. Wholeheartedly – especially the bizarre Labour proposal of “preferential votes” to force the thing through the Commons… Something which, by the by, they have consistently refused to allow in general elections…

Update: Tory Sir Patrick Cormack’s take on Labour’s proposals – it’s a “constitutional outrage”. Damn straight.

The current Lords situation is a mess. The new proposals (50% elected, 50% appointed, and a reduction in the number of peers as first preference, with other options available) are no real improvement, especially as they seem designed to strengthen the ability of the Commons (i.e. the government) to get legislation through with far less of a challenge than is even now the case with the powers of the Parliament Act (which allows the government simply to ignore the Lords if they can drag debates out long enough).

To add to this, the proposal for the vote on the issue in the Commons has the definite potential to remove even the Commons’ ability to throw out government proposals. In this case, rejecting the various proposals put forward by the government is seemingly not an option for the Commons. By introducing a system of preferential voting, one of the proposals WILL be implemented, no matter how bad. Straw himself effectively referred to the outcome of such a vote being the selection of the “lest bad” option. We don’t need the least bad. We need the best.

Quite what the Tories’ own proposals are, I have no idea. But they are entirely right in opposing this mess.

Not only would these proposals not resolve the chaotic Lords situation, but instead they would further weaken not just the Lords, not just the effectiveness of Parliament in preventing bad legislation from being passed, but also – through the precedent set by this bizarre proposed voting system – they have the potential to undermine the power of the Commons to hold the executive in check. Parliament, in such a situation, would end up the weakest it has been since the early 17th century.

One Comment

  1. God I'm so bored of this. Can't we just give up on the whole Lords reform shebang as being so last century and restore the old pre-1910 chamber (giving some of the better lifers real titles in the process and thereby renewing the aristocracy)? Probably not. Bah, so much for my already forlorn hope of ever wearing the strawberry leaves.

    Perhaps we'd all be better off if we just agreed that all attempts to come up with some sort of entirely rational and perfect constitutional scheme are bound to end in tears as the pieces fail to fit together, and do what the British constitution has always done: reform, muddle around for fifty years or so, reform again, muddle again, and so on ad infinitum. We might all be happier and saner then.