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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    136 John_Bull
    Thats right john. They are starving in the streets, you have 100 apples, i have 5. i give two away and you give 10. You did give more away john. But i gave much more of what i had. (if you had taken andys advice you could have got away with 0.5 of an apple, many do).
    ethics? broken society/community?

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    "a party largely funded by millions of individual workers is a lot more representative and in touch than one funded largely by a tiny handful of elite million/billionaires"

    In Touch (again Soundbites) with what though Lefty? Unions know best how to run the economy?

    And you argument seems to infer a greater right to govern? Did Labour deserve re-election in 2010?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    136 John_Bull
    No government is perfect john, but you know as well as i do that a party largely funded by millions of individual workers is a lot more representative and in touch than one funded largely by a tiny handful of elite million/billionaires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    "In a time of crisis, the burden should be spread"

    Here's another Labour soundbite!

    The burden was already spread Lefty, since 25% of all income tax comes from the Top 1%

    Increasing the Top rate threshold to 50% was, as strictly pointed out, purely political. His previously stated view on Tax confirms that he knew this would be economically counterproductive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    134. Strictly Pickled
    Look, you know as well as i do, that there are huge amounts of people in this country (those who havent already chucked it in) that are living day to day and being crushed financially/emotionally. At the same time this govt gave a tax cut to millionaires and many of the wealthiest pay less tax as % of their income than a cleaner. Many of these mega rich, fund the tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Lefty, Ed isn't offering any alternatives, he just repeats sound bites about 'too far too fast' & exaggerates out of all proportion the actual cuts being made & the delta between GO's & his own. In reality, whilst Labour howl in mock outrage, they have no intention of reversing any policies, they just hope to gain political capital from not being the party that had to implement them

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    133 lefty11
    I agree with the comment but the position was exactly the same under the previous govt so it's not really a tory thing. They were "Intensely relaxed" about it in fact.

    " govt gave a tax cut to millionaires."
    They partially reversed a tax increase made by Gordon Brown for purely political reasons and which he knew was of limited fiscal return. Not the spin you put on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.


    "I'm afraid the Tory mantra of "themselves, money and themselves" has no place in any decent ethical society"
    It seems to me that this "Tory" mantra is also quite appropriate to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well, both of which seem to be doing very well for themselves - and they definitely have no claims to any place in "any decent ethical society" in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    132. Strictly Pickled
    In a time of crisis, the burden should be spread. The broadest shoulders helping to carry the load. Under this conservative led coalition we have the poorest in society bearing the brunt with the mega rich still avoiding billions in tax. Many of the latter fund the conservative party and in return the govt gave a tax cut to millionaires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    131 lefty11

    I don't believe any of the things your list. I think the sheer scale of the problems is eye wateringly unimaginable. It is difficult to see what any govt of any description could do about them, without making some very, very tough decisions to ease the constraints of the current situation. And I despair at the lack of politicians with any real world experience or genuine ability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    john, strictly.
    You both believe there are no other choices that can be made, no alternative ways to reduce the deficit, no differing length of time in which to do so. That you believe the burden of austerity is being shared fairly. That tax avoidance by some of the wealthiest that equates to huge amounts of money isn't an issue. Perhaps you even believe this governments policies are working?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    lefty @ 125

    Well he seems to have skidaddled (fiscally worn out for the day, I guess). Never mind.

    K2 - odd name for a tax scam, isn't it? Sounds more like some sort of automatic rifle or a big bomb or something. Or possibly a boy band.

    KTRFFH anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    "I don't think that a party who's policies as listed on a blank sheet of paper, and with no clear definition of themselves, what they stand for or who they represent, would be much of a asset to a national coalition either"

    Indeed! But it would at least force Labour to embrace reality & put a stop to their disruptive & disingenuous posturing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    126 John_Bull

    A fair assessment of another pointless post by lefty11 in 99.

    I don't think that a party who's policies as listed on a blank sheet of paper, and with no clear definition of themselves, what they stand for or who they represent, would be much of a asset to a national coalition either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    126. John.
    Hi john, i was doing very well under labour. Have to take personal responsibility though that i didnt put enough away for a rainy day. Mind you i couldnt have put enough away to last through an economic crisis of this length. Lifes been very different since the bullingdon crew took the reigns.


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