Thursday, February 08, 2007

Straw gets a rough ride over Lords reform

For anyone watching the statement from Jack Straw yesterday there will be a certain sense of foreboding about the upcoming Lords reform. Read the debate here as well as the House of Lords discussion here. Also see an article by Jack Straw in today's Guardian.

There was significant opposition coming from virtually everwhere. The Tories are promising no help whatever. I think they want an 80% elected chamber based on ...... counties as opposed to population. Well, well, what a surprise. The reason they aren't happy is because they don't have the huge inbuilt majority the Lords had and have found a way to get it back - by proposing the most undemocratic form of election possible - one that distorts the representationof population and is permanently skewed in favour of their party.

This is absolutley ideal for them. It gives them the luxury of campaigning for a predominantly elected chamber but also the chance to rubbish any other proposals (and I do mean any other proposals - even if the Commons were to vote for an 80% elected upper chamber they would find something to balk and quibble about).

If reform fails we will have a 100% appointed chamber. The only alternative in my view would be for a more precise plan to be introduced into party manifestos and then simply legislated for in the normal way, using the Parliament Act if the Lords are unreasonably obstructive (as they nearly usually are on these matters).

The Tory Lords are already giving fair notice that they will do all they can to obstruct the will of the democratically elected chamber with no legitimacy whatever.

Is a second chamber really worth all of this hassle?

For the moment though, the best of luck to the Government. Let this at least be achieved - that the House of Commons expresses itself on the issue.

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