Lords reform simple? Never


Sometimes people tell me they don't understand politics. Sometimes it's not hard to see why. Take reform of the House of Lords.

All the main party manifestos backed the idea that those who make our laws should be elected rather than appointed to, or inheriting, the job.

All three party leaders say they are committed to reform.

All say they will order their MPs to back it.

Yet the widespread view in the Westminster village is that it won't happen.

Why? Well, Lords reform has always been defeated by those passionately opposed to change finding a way to vote with those passionately in favour of change but opposed to whatever plan happens to be on the table at the time.

So it was that in 1968 Labour's Michael Foot - who wanted to scrap the Lords altogether - united with the then Tory Enoch Powell - who wanted it to stay just as it was - and led a coalition which defeated change.

So it was in 1998 when the Tory leader of the Lords, Viscount Cranborne, secretly reached a deal with Tony Blair without telling his own leader William Hague. It limited New Labour's "bold" reform to the abolition of places in the Lords for most - but not all - hereditary peers.

So it could be now if anti-reform Tory MPs - of which there are many - vote with pro-reform Labour MPs. There will be many opportunities for them to do so on

  • the timetabling of debates on Lords reform (sounds dull but the first step towards chaos for any government is losing control of its parliamentary timetable and Labour say they will oppose the so-called 'programme motion' which sets the timetable)
  • the need for a referendum (Ed Miliband says it's vital, so too do many Tory rebels)
  • the voting system for the new Lords or Senators (the proposal which almost no-one likes is for a variant of the system used to elect MEPs - a PR list system in which you can pick an individual and not just a party)

So, it's simple really.

The public votes for parties that promise reform of the Lords. Parties are led by people who are in favour of reform. Yet reform may not happen.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 146.


    So Labour are "in touch" and "representative" because of the way they are funded by workers. Tell me, when the previous govt opened our job market to all of Europe and beyond, was it the (represented) workers or Tory millionaires who lost out in the job market ? Who were the govt representing when they did this ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    142. John
    Recession, not many hiring. That stick is a bit limp now. But i would be happy for you to earn your apples elsewhere. Lets call it c555 island. Problem is, people got wise and left. Now you have to take way your own garbage, unblock your own drains. If only you had paid them a decent wage. But i guess greed is human nature. But then so is compassion, empathy and self respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    You remember the 1970's Lefty? I get the impression you're too young. I certainly wouldn't recommend a return to the Corporate State, 60% marginal tax & brain drains.

    Growth in the last decade was an illusion based on credit & property prices, the productive economy shrank. Since 2010 it has expanded & given the EZ crisis that is a positive sign. Not all bad Lefty!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    140 John_Bull
    Yes, union john "An organisation of workers joined to protect their common interests and improve their working conditions". They seem to far far far outnumber a handful of millionaires funding and running the country at the moment (looking after their own interests rather than the vast majority of the population). Have you seen the latest GDP figures by the way?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.


    But I earned my apples lefty through my own enterprise & in so doing offered 150 others the chance to earn some apples of their own

    You want me to earn my apples elsewhere?

    This is the problem that you ignored & its why Gordon operated the same tax system until it became politically expedient not to.


Comments 5 of 146



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