Tory and Labour peers look set to frustrate Clegg on Lords reform

There was further frustrating news for proponents of constitutional change yesterday, as it emerged the committee on Lords reform is to be packed with opponents of change.

There was further frustrating news for proponents of constitutional change yesterday, as it emerged the joint committee on Lords reform is to be packed with opponents of an elected second chamber. Of the 13 peers on the 26-member committee, all four Labour and three of the four Tory peers are anti-reform; it will be chaired by Labour peer Lord Richard, whose voting record is against any elected element of the chamber.

Following the resounding defeat in the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum, it will be another major blow to the Liberal Democrats – and in particular Nick Clegg – were Lords reform to be watered down too much or delayed too long.

Today’s Times reports (£):

Some Liberal Democrats are growing uneasy at the scale of the opposition in both the Lords and the Commons and want to ensure that Mr Clegg does not become wedded to something he cannot win – particularly after the crushing defeat in the Alternative Vote referendum…

Senior figures in the party are exploring the idea of “term peers”, so that instead of being elected for a single 15-year term, as in Mr Clegg’s plans, they would be appointed for that time. The change, together with ending the hereditiry principle and introducing independence to the appointment process, could be presented as significant reform, although it would fall well short of an elected House.

Mr Clegg’s aides insisted that it was still early days in the debate and that they were pursuing the principle of an elected chamber. “We always knew that this would be a difficult political battle to win,” one said. “We deliberately did not want to curb the committee’s views and have given them plenty of room to debate.”

Last month, a survey (£) by the Times showed deep opposition amongst senior peers to Clegg’s draft bill on reform, and there have been many more stories recently of opposition from peers – including from Liberal Democrats, such as Lord Steel.

Lords reform, however, is not merely a test for the Liberal Democrat leader – but for the Tory and Labour party leaders as well.

On the Total Politics blog last month, Mark Pack wrote:

The fate of the current 789 members of the House of Lords may depend on the future course of the government’s proposals for Lords reform, but so too may the fate of the three main party leaders.

For each of them Lords reform offers both an opportunity and a threat.

For David Cameron the opportunity is to push on with his mission to change the Conservative Party, modernising it in a continuing effort to shed the problems that have resulted in nearly 20 years passing since it last won an overall majority…

Lords reform offers Miliband the opportunity to hold out a friendly hand to Liberal Democrats, to portray himself as a genuine pluralist rather than a traditional Labour tribalist, and as someone different from the Blairites who so often talked Lords reform but never were quite willing to actually vote for it.

Having David Blunkett and John Reid criticise him would do no harm at all in showing he is different from Labour’s past…

The surprisingly large number of rebels amongst the ranks of Liberal Democrat peers, opposed to the idea of elections for the Lords, provides the Deputy Prime Minister with the opportunity to burnish his credentials with grassroots activists.

Many still feel sore about Clegg’s line on tuition fees (as shown by the big drop in his ratings in the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members) but also are angry at the anti-reform rebels amongst the party’s peers.

The biggest threat to reform, though, remains the Commons; as Roland Watson (£) in the Times concludes:

“Tory and Labour MPs are likely to be reluctant to vote for reforms that will diminish the primacy of the Commons.”

See also:

Diversity and democracy: Reforming the LordsPatrick McGlinchey, Left Foot Forward, June 1st

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10 Responses to “Tory and Labour peers look set to frustrate Clegg on Lords reform”

  1. Robert Beavis

    If they do, they should be ashamed. RT @leftfootfwd Tory and Labour peers look set to frustrate Clegg on Lords reform: http://t.co/57svF5D

  2. Carly Mae

    Tory and Labour peers look set to frustrate Clegg on Lords reform: http://bit.ly/iJATzD reports @ShamikDas

  3. Double.Karma

    Tory and Labour peers look set to frustrate Clegg on Lords reform: http://bit.ly/iJATzD reports @ShamikDas

  4. Will

    The Lords just don’t get it. They don’t get to violate the will of the public, seeing as every single party elected and serving in the Commons has an elected second chamber in their 2010 manifesto. Every. Single. One.

  5. Martin McGrath

    Clegg about to get turned over on constitutional reform again – this time on the Lords http://bit.ly/mReQje – hopeless.

  6. Leon Wolfson

    The commons doesn’t deserve primacy in most matters, compared to an elected second chamber. More, it should use PR, since that’s been rejected in the commons.

    And yes, the last act to be forced through the lords by the commons should be, afaik, legislation enforcing this.

  7. mr. Sensible

    i am totally opposed to an elected second chamber and a coppycat of the commons.

  8. Richard

    7 anti-reform peers on a committee of 26 can hardly be described as “packed” with anti-reformers.

  9. Selohesra

    Strangely I agree with Mr Sensible on this one – the Chambers serve different purposes and there is no need for the Lords to try and rival the commons by obtaining democratic mandate. Both before & after most of the heredeteries were kicked out the Lords have been a good check on the Government of the day and act in a much more impartial and less tribal way than the Commons. It may seem odd but as it seems to work then surely there are more important things for Govt to meddle in.

  10. Lords big beasts turn up the heat on reform | Left Foot Forward

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