Why Labour is right in principle to vote against Lords Reform


3:59 pm - July 10th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


      Share on Tumblr

The initial vote to reform the House of Lords takes place today and, in all likelihood, the government will lose the vote thanks to Tory rebels.

Most Labour MPs will also vote against it, attracting cries of ‘unprincipled’ from Libdem and even some Labour activists.

But not only would such a course of action be the right thing to do, if Lords Reform was gutted this Parliament it may actually be to the benefit of Libdems too.

But three points need to be made before I explain my reasoning.

First: it is entirely hypocritical for Libdems to talk about principles just a few days after they voted against an independent inquiry into banking regulation, let alone all their u-turns over tuition fees, NHS, VAT and cuts to legal aid.

Second: Lords Reform being a Manifesto Commitment is also irrelevant. None of the parties won the last election, so Labour has no obligation to stick to its MCs. After all, the party ditched a whole bunch of other bits from its manifesto including ID cards, 42 days detention and is currently re-writing policy on lots of areas. Why would anyone want to stick to a manifesto that attracted 29% vote share?

Third: hardly anyone from the public is paying attention to the vote on HoL reform. It’s a Westminster bubble issue. It will happen eventually but I don’t see why it should be a priority for Labour now.

But the main point is this – Labour’s priority right now should be to ensure this is a one-term government, and to stop it from passing more destructive legislation. Nothing else matters.

I say that for the sake of people who are facing huge cuts to legal aid, disability benefits, being forced into Workfare and all the rest. The proper functioning of this government is not in the national interest, as a leftie.

If Labour does not cooperate with Libdems, and it leads to added tension between the Tories and Libdems when Lords Reform falls, that is welcome outcome.

Furthermore, Libdems have promised that if Lords Reform doesn’t go through then they won’t cooperate on the Boundary Review. Even better. The BR will not only gerrymander constituencies, but disproportionately hit Labour and Libdem MPs. If that falls – both parties benefit.

So it makes sense for Labour to vote against Lords Reform today. I would even say that in the longer term such a move would benefit Libdems.

Does it benefit the electorate? If it makes the Coalition dysfunctional enough to scupper further cuts and legislation – then yes it does. I suspect they care much more about the economy and public services than House of Lords reform.

Addendum: To emphasise my point – lefties who don’t want this government’s destructive legislation should welcome any opportunity to make this government dysfunctional. It really is that simple. Nothing else matters. If Lords Reform suffers in the short term – fine. So be it.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Our democracy

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


“My party winning is more important than principle”.

Right now, a tiny tear of joy is rolling down the cheek of Dan Hodges.

“it is entirely hypocritical for Libdems to talk about principles”

It is not, because Labour are entirely free to follow every single one of their principles, while Lib Dems and Tories are not.

“Lords Reform being a Manifesto Commitment is also irrelevant. None of the parties won the last election, so Labour has no obligation to stick to its MCs”

Some 88% of the public voted for the top three parties, all of which had manifesto commitments. I’m afraid the “no party won” line just doesn’t wash, not when the effective choice was between those three for power (and clearly, in reality, only two) and all would have won with such a manifesto commitment in place.

“hardly anyone from the public is paying attention to the vote on HoL reform.”

Hardly anyone pays attention to any vote, perhaps we should just do away with politicians completely and replace them with a tombola.

Seriously Sunny, just cut the first half out of this argument and you have a much more resonant article.

“My party winning is more important than principle”.

No you’ve missed the point entirely. I care for this govt not pushing forward more destructive legislation.

If throwing a spanner in the works makes it harder for them to trust each other – brilliant.

I don’t really care for people who’re spinning this as a point about party tribalism. It isn’t. It’s about making this govt dysfunctional for quite rational, left-wing reasons.

I’m disgusted by the contempt for democracy shown by the writer and by the Labour party.

5. Chaise Guevara

Sunny, isn’t this the exact same argument as “Vote no to AV to embarrass the Lib Dems”?

Bad stuff, Sunny.

First: it is entirely hypocritical for Libdems to talk about principles just a few days after they voted against an independent inquiry into banking regulation, let alone all their u-turns over tuition fees, NHS, VAT and cuts to legal aid.

Two wrongs make a right?

Second: Lords Reform being a Manifesto Commitment is also irrelevant. None of the parties won the last election, so Labour has no obligation to stick to its MCs.

Disingenuous.

Third: hardly anyone from the public is paying attention to the vote on HoL reform.

Oh well, carry on then. Hopefully, nobody will notice what an unprincipled stance you have taken………….

Well, at least you’re refreshingly honest about it!

However, as it seems the programme motion has been pulled, what will/should Labour do now? Ed Miliband and others have already said that, referendum aside, they support reform of the House of Lords in a way that is not massively dissimilar to the Bill. Having unconstrained debate on it will they seek to filibuster it out of time or should they stick to their recent line supporting the principle and seek to have the Bill amended but passed following reasonable debate?

Most of what the government needs to do in this session is stuff not needing legislation (the paucity of the legislative schedule can be seen in the fact that the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill made it into the Queen’s Speech so there’s enough non-essential fat in the schedule to trim). Labour managed somehow to carry on functioning as a government despite spending immense amounts of time on debating legislation to outlaw fox hunting so, barring a filibuster contrary to the current stated policy of the party, why might the government not get House of Lords reform through?

Isn’t your approach then potentially rather risky? By making it a straight “let’s kick the Tories” you provide a proportion of Tory rebels later in the piece with a good reason to listen to their whips. If they manage somehow to get the Bill through, something which is basically Labour policy gets delivered by the coalition and delivered in the face of in your terms, nakedly partisan opposition. I wonder how many LibDem Senators would be minded to support a future Labour government if they hold a balance of power in that house…

So the whole point is to show that Labour is the best opposition party. Looks like it will work then.

thanks for that Sunny, you’ve just helped convince me that despite generally supporting Labour in recent local elections I really shouldn’t join the party as party political advantage is what matters above & beyond everything else. Sorry, but that kind of mentality makes me wish I had no interest in politics, especially as our supposed ‘model of democracy’ is such a pathetic, rancid joke.

Spolied ballot papers in future for me unfortunately, as I doubt a Labour-led government in the near future will reverse or significantly make better the various public sector & welfare cuts imposed by this current lot.

Ben at 9 needs to get over himself.

It is quite clear that Sunny isn’t arguing about party political advantage, it’s about *stopping* this government. You know, the one presently ensuring the 2010s will be a lost decade economically speaking and is heaping misery upon misery on our poorest and most vulnerable.

@Sunny
“I don’t really care for people who’re spinning this as a point about party tribalism. It isn’t. It’s about making this govt dysfunctional for quite rational, left-wing reasons.”

It’s not spinning. For those of us who aren’t tribally Labour it reads as a point about party tribalism. If Lords reform passes, it’s a victory for democratic politics, and it won’t prolong the life of the coalition. If it doesn’t, it won’t make a significant difference to the election result in 2015. The big three parties and several of the smaller ones had Lords reform in their manifesto. Voting against a principle that everybody – including your party – agrees on for partisan advantage is blatant tribalism.

This is a genuine chance to make something good come out of this Parliament. If Labour support it, then Lords reform will not be seen as a coalition achievement. If they sink it, then those of us who want a democratic Lords will simply have one more reason to be disappointed in your party.

Sunny,

If you’re going to claim that Labour is right ‘in principle’ to oppose the Lord’s Reform Bill then you really should provide principled arguments to support your contention, rather than argue you case in purely pragmatic terms.

And even your pragmatic arguments are less than compelling.

So far as your three background points are concerned, points 1 & 2 (alleged hypocrisy/reneging on manifesto commitment) both fall for the same reason – there’s nothing unprincipled in Labour refusing to back a Lord’s Reform Bill it it disagrees with the substance of the bill, irrespective of any prior commitment to the principle of Lord’s Reform. One can easily support the principle of reform while, at the same time, opposing the actual reforms put forward by the coalition on the ground that they would deliver an unsatisfactory solution.

So far as it being just a ‘Westminster bubble’ issue – so what?

Parliament routinely legislates for and passes regulations on matters about which the majority of the electorate genuinely don’t give a toss but which nevertheless take up some parliamentary time. Lack of general public interest in a particular piece of legislation does not automatically mean that that legislation is neither necessary or that it serves to no useful function, a fact which negates, entirely, the ‘Westminster Bubble’ argument.

As for the ‘better thing to do’ argument, one could easily make the same argument in respect of gay marriage – and its opponents have been making that argument – and yet the principled thing for Labour to do is support that legislation even if the time it takes up could be better put to other purposes, as would also be the case if a consensus view on Lord’s Reform had been reached giving rise to a bill with Labour felt it could support.

And if mischief-making within the coalition is your goal, then Labour would be far better served by backing the coalition’s programme motion and pushing the bill through its common’s stages as quickly as possible, forcing the Lord’s to kill it off, as this would put Cameron in the unenviable position of having to choose between dropping the bill entirely, and splitting the coalition, or reintroducing the bill in the next session using the Parliament and confronting his own rebels head on. A fight over Lord’s Reform between the Tories and LDs will be far more damaging to the coalition if it takes place without the assurance that the House of Lords could step in and kill the bill, even if it means delaying that particular cat fight for another 12 months.

Sorry, but this looks like a rather lame and unconvincing attempt at justification for towing the party line!

If Labour wants to vote against something which they pledged to do anyway to spite the coalition then fine, but please don’t insult our intelligence by pretending there’s any sort of higher principle behind it!

This is the sort of childish party political nonsense that puts people off politics!

@Anon- well done on hiding behind Anon, while telling someone to get over themselves- this is pathetic tribal rhetoric plain & simple. I’d like to expect better from the major centre-left party, or any mainstream political in fact. It’s this kind of short-termist point scoring that puts people off party politics. I totally agree that this government is doing some terrible things but from what I see I have little faith in Labour correcting these things, when a lot of what I see is not principled opposition.

It’s not spinning. For those of us who aren’t tribally Labour it reads as a point about party tribalism.

I can’t stop people from mis-reading my article entirely, though its quite clear what I’m saying.

As I said on Twitter, it really is silly for left-wingers to say they want to oppose this govt’s policies and wished they’d stopped passing horrible legislation… then go on to whine about ‘tribalism’ when Labour is given an excellent opportunity to start civil war between the Libdems and Tories, and put their agenda on hold.

Do you want the govt’s agenda on hold or not? Yes. Then Labour’s job should be to find the best way to exploit tensions between the two parties so they find it impossible to work with each other. That will slow down their destructive programme.

It really is that simple. Anything else is just noise.

All in all a pretty sickening op.

Funny thing is, if you look as this type of article on this blog and also look at pieces that mirror this on blogs such as Con Home, the two taken together look as if they could be some kind of plot to convice the general public that everyone involved with politics, from both left and right is a duplicitious, dissembling, sneaky, conniving, shit with ethics considerably lower than those of your average banker.

And that’s saying something!

I agree with most of the posts. Its conservatives you tend to associate with pragmatism and a lack of principles. Very depressing but not surprising to see a Labourite trying to stop leglislation.

In any case, as mentioned above, meaningful HoL reform will never be passed anyway as long as the people who it affects directly have a veto on it. Its an utterly insane system, so undemocratic! Viva la revolution! Hah!

I agree with most of the posts. Its conservatives you tend to associate with pragmatism and a lack of principles. Very depressing but not surprising to see a Labourite trying to stop progressive leglislation.

In any case, as mentioned above, meaningful HoL reform will never be passed anyway as long as the people who it affects directly have a veto on it. Its an utterly insane system, so undemocratic! Viva la revolution! Hah!

19. Chaise Guevara

“Do you want the govt’s agenda on hold or not? Yes. Then Labour’s job should be to find the best way to exploit tensions between the two parties so they find it impossible to work with each other. That will slow down their destructive programme.

It really is that simple. Anything else is just noise.”

It’s not that simple, because I DO want their agenda on hold, or preferably permenantly cancelled, but not at the expense of system reform and making Labour look like pathetic two-year olds.

20. Shatterface

But three points need to be made before I explain my reasoning.

First: Ad hom

Second: Special pleading

Third: Non sequitur

There, summarised it for you.

But the main point is this – Labour’s priority right now should be to ensure this is a one-term government, and to stop it from passing more destructive legislation. Nothing else matters.

The word ‘destructive’ is redundant in this sentence since you clearly oppose any legislation. The alliance aren’t letting you play with the big boys so time to invade the pitch.

21. Chaise Guevara

I’d also like to know if Labour were in power and trying to push through a contentious bill that Sunny agreed with, and due to party defectors they were relying on Tory support, Sunny would be fine with Tories saying “I agree with the bill, but I’m gonna vote against it to embarrass Labour”.

@10 – You go to the head of the class.

Anyone kvetching about “democracy” is missing the fact that the composition of the present government is not democratic – it was a back-room deal sketched out in the wake of a hung parliament. The Tories were well short of a majority and have nevertheless proposed policy after policy as though they actually won. As predicted the LibDems (outside of the Orange Book mob) have been more-or-less sidelined, while regressive Tory practice is the norm.

Right now, the priority of the liberal-left has to be stopping the current government from wrecking the social compact irretrievably – comity be damned.

So we carry on for another 112 years of having people placed into power by selection not election.

As for Labour winning another election in my life, have you seen labour idea on Military schools with soldiers teaching the nasty kids.

I think a one term government will become two term

“Do you want the govt’s agenda on hold or not? Yes. Then Labour’s job should be to find the best way to exploit tensions between the two parties so they find it impossible to work with each other. That will slow down their destructive programme.”

That’s a ridiculously simplistic way of looking at things. Yes, I want the cuts put on hold indefinitely. But shafting one of the few good things in the coalition’s agenda in order to do it is counter-productive. I want my MP (who happens to be Labour) to vote on issues according to what is in the best interests of the country. That is what he is paid for. This kind of party-political posturing just gets in the way. If you want the Tories and the Libs to be at each others’ throats, do it by putting pressure on the Libs to stand up to something bad, not by helping the Tories to scupper one of the few good things the coalition would have done.

Your party helped destroy the chance of electoral reform last year for the exact same reasons you are spouting as a reason to kill Lords reform. We lost one chance at a more democratic system thanks in part to most of Labour putting its own interests ahead of the country. Let’s try not to lose this one thanks to Labour being tribal.

In short, this kind of attitude is why a large chunk of the population think that the big three parties are all as bad as each other. There’s nothing principled in opposing Lords reform unless you genuinely believe that appointed lords are better than elected ones. It’s either doublethink or deception to claim otherwise.

25. Planeshift

“Do you want the govt’s agenda on hold or not? ”

I’d preferably like the govt to be defeated on stuff I disagree with, and to be able to get the stuff I agree with through.

As the later stuff tends to be lib dem originated policy, and largely constitutional reform stuff aimed at making the UK a slightly more democratic polity, it also happens to be the case that this is prob the best chance ever of getting this through – given that the labour party contains a wing that has a tribal attitude to constitutional reform which considers the biggest mistakes of new labour to be the FOI act and devolution.

Here’s the crux of the matter – if you want westminster to ever be even capable of having a sane social policy in the next 30 years (and you clearly do – having been very supportive of the anti atos stuff) then you need radical constitutional change. Because the labour party ain’t going to deliver this within the current constitution – It isn’t capable of doing so.

I can’t see how anyone can be surprised. The Labour leadership’s entire approach to politics is based around power for the Labour Party, by which they means themselves, at any cost.

Deceitful spin based media management. Check.
Upper house stuffed with cronies. Check.
Deeply unequal boundaries. Check.
Unproportional voting system. Check.
Devolution only for Labour strongholds. Check.
Complete lack of principles. Check.
Removal of Civil Liberties. Check.

All for the purpose of concentrating power in a tiny ,unrepresentative, nepotistic clique of North London metropolitan elite who dominate the Labour party, who have never had any life outside politics, care for nothing but their own power and have about as much concern for the common people of this country as Bob Diamond.

Opportunist. Spiteful. Entitled. Socially conservative. Fearful of democracy. Just a few of the things that Labour and the Tories have in common. At least the Tories are honest enough to call themselves Conservatives.

A possible Labour slogan for the next election: “We want more democracy – but only on our terms”. It can go just below their other one: “We know about the working classes – we talk to our cleaners”.

Hi Sunny,

Interesting listening to you just now on the Beeb. I do understand the argument for taking more time with the bill, but sometimes you just have to go for it, even if the result is less than perfect. The Labour party need to do that, as do the Lib Dems and the Tories. I could pick holes in the proposal till the cows came home – but then, I could probably do that for ANY proposal. And while I did that, we still only have half a democracy!

I want to pick up on the idea that the public think this is just one of those Westminster Bubble issues and is of little interest to them.

I think, quite simply, that this is the fault of the “Sell” made worse by most news channels completely ignoring the issues and just going with the political rubbish.

So, let me pose the whole question of Lords reform completely the other way around:

If the second chamber was currently elected and the government of the day put forward a bill that would take away the voter’s rights to vote in members saying “we think members should no longer be elected, but just appointed by us MPs,” how do you think the public and the media would react?

There would be riots! It would make the poll tax look like a little incident in someone’s back yard. The news papers (of whatever bias) would be apoplectic, millions of people would march on Westminster and there would be headlines in every major newspaper in ever major country – including the undemocratic ones.

The very idea that a government should take away our right to vote for our representatives would be quite unthinkable.

And yet, in a strange sort of way, those that are opposing this, that is basically what they are saying: “We don’t think the public can be trusted to vote for the second chamber – I mean, we could end up with anybody in there!”

As I said, it is a question of selling it right.

Joss

(PS: One argument for appointing people is so we get experts – I would like to blow a hole in that argument. The very nice and thoughtful Lord Winston, a notable fertility scientist, also has debated and voted on education, asylum and other issues. What has his science background got that makes him better qualified to debate and vote on those issues than you or I?)

The Labour Party really is sick.

They oppose reform of the HoL – Sunny seems to think that this is somehow principled, yet they support this.

Go figure.

This is bonkers. I am flabbergasted that Sunny has come out with the same paper-thin arguments that the Tories have been peddling. It’s becoming a common sight to see Labour supporters joining forces with the Tories to thwart democratic reform. Keir Hardie must be spinning.

The first point is irrelevant – shouldn’t we hope our politicians vote on matters of principle rather than whether or not another party is being hypocritical? What difference does it to the bill?

The second point about manifestos refers to Labours 29% share of the vote. But 80% of voters chose parties that made manifesto pledges to make the House of Lords elected, which is roughly the same percentage of people who support having an elected House of Lords, as shown by the recent YouGov poll that makes a mockery of Sunny’s third claim.

The short-termism of the main point is staggering. Isn’t it obvious that one of the reasons working people are under attack from successive governments is because once a government is elected they can rule unopposed? That the house that scrutinises the work of the government is filled with OUR BETTERS, the LORDS? Does Sunny believe this kind of feudal state will emancipate the working classes? Over 100 years and I’m still waiting.

It beggars belief. Utterly beggars belief.

31. Charlieman

Nick Clegg has the only opportunity in his lifetime to present a bill to reform the House of Lords. It is most probably not the bill that he would wish to present; coalition compromises and all that. It is the most liberal bill that the Commons will have the chance to reform for a long time.

I’m not 100% convinced about the bill’s content — 15 year tenure without responding to voters? That can be sorted out during the reform debates.

For the last 100 years we have had Conservative and Labour ministers delivering piecemeal reform of HoL. Today, the response from the Tory back bench is that they won’t forsake the idea of a retirement park, perk and perch. The Labour response contains the same elements, shielded and augmented by bluster. Whatever disagreements occur in the coalition, Nick Clegg will carry on with this bill; it is the bill that separates liberals from conservatives (and aren’t there a lot of them in the Labour Party?).

If you seriously believe in HoL reform, you ensure that the debate kicks off. If you think that scoring political points is important, as Miliband perceives, recall that there are negative and positive points. If Miliband continues to block this bill, he will be portrayed as a Luddite. He will be considered as unacceptable as a coalition partner in the same way as Gordon Brown.

It’s not spinning. For those of us who aren’t tribally Labour it reads as a point about party tribalism.

I can’t stop people from mis-reading my article entirely, though its quite clear what I’m saying.

Maybe it isn’t clear what you’re saying. Because what you appear to have written, to most commenters here it seems, is a load of opportunistic, tribal bullshit.

33. Charlieman

@OP, Sunny: “If Labour does not cooperate with Libdems, and it leads to added tension between the Tories and Libdems when Lords Reform falls – fine. To me that’s a perfectly fine position to take.”

The above is a classic example of electoralism — bugger the people so long as my team gets elected.

And it is so short sighted. Clegg’s bill has a chance to bugger up the system completely. Politics *could* be very different if opportunists were mature enough to take constitutional reform seriously.

Reckon #labourscum will start trending soon. Nice one guys, really un-tribal.

See it’s really quite simple.

If Labour keeps joining forces with reactionaries to block any moves towards a more democratic political system, for the sake of short term party political advantage. Then the net result will be that they will be viewed as unprincipled and self serving and therefore viewed quite rightly with cynicism and contempt.

Can they really not work this out?

On the contrary, it is our very undemocratic system which allows the Tories to wreak such havoc on the social fabric unchecked whenever they reach office. So if progressives had any common sense they should support any moves to improve that system.

@3 Sunny: “I care for this govt not pushing forward more destructive legislation.”

In tyhe long term, if there is an elected HoL, governments will find it harder to push forward destructive legislation.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 UKL

“Because what you appear to have written, to most commenters here it seems, is a load of opportunistic, tribal bullshit.”

I wouldn’t call it tribal. Not *quite*. There’s a fine line between “I want my team to win at all costs” and “I want to prevent these specific policies at all costs”. I suspect Sunny would be singing a different tune if we had a moderate conservative government, hence he can be said to be on the right side of that line.

Nevertheless, his proposal is short-sighted, selfish and stupid even in terms of pure strategy.

From news reports, it seems that the evil demon in the woodpile was Jesse Norman:

“The rebels were focusing their praise on Jesse Norman, a former adviser to George Osborne and one of the party’s main intellectuals, who has jeopardised his chances of a ministerial career by running the rebel operation.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jul/10/rebel-tories-motion-lords-reform?newsfeed=true

Opportunistic, tribal, partisan and quite possibly unethical.

Possibly the worst reason for an MP vote on an issue – “I agree with the motion, and agree its good for democracy, and believe my constituents want it – but will vote against it become the media and spin doctors will call it a red/blue win”.

This is how things work. This is how the whips work now. But what is funny is how Sunny, a media commentator, can argue it’s principled, when to everyone else outside the system it is clearly the opposite. Indeed, pretend he thinks it’s principled to spin for the Labour Party!

Talk about giving your brain and soul away to a political party – sheep.

40. Charlieman

@38 Bob B: That’s an interesting link. The story is that Conservative MPs were elected on a manifesto to reform the HoL but they didn’t really mean it. In that 1.054 word article, nobody says why they don’t like the bill.

Elsewhere, Labour MPs promised to reform the HoL but would prefer to join an unholy alliance than to back a bill proposed by Nick Clegg.

Democracy, eh?

I am happy to replace tribal with “short-sighted, selfish and stupid”.

“what you appear to have written, to most commenters here it seems, is a load of opportunistic, short-sighted, selfish and stupid bullshit.”

Charlieman

FWIW my view, as often mentioned before, is that the HoL is best left alone because it has little real power – unlike the US Senate or the German Bundesrat. The HoL can’t debate finance bills and can only delay legislation passed by the HoC for a year.

The HoL as presently constructed does a fairly good job in scrutinising legislation, which is often rushed through the HoC. The contribution of the Lords is especially valuable because of the many cross-benchers who bring much expert experience from previous careers outside partisan politics. Their contribution will be greatly diminished under Clegg’s proposals and wiped out under Labour proposals.

It’s one thing to say that the HoL needs to be democratically elected and quite something else to claim that Clegg’s proposals are the way of making it “democratic” when voters will be required to vote for parties and not individuals.

Yawn, the usual cries about principles from the usual suspects.

Yes, I want the cuts put on hold indefinitely. But shafting one of the few good things in the coalition’s agenda in order to do it is counter-productive.

It really isn’t. It can be a real outcome. And frankly, I’ll take screwing up the Coalition over HoL reform. I suspect so will most voters being hurt by the cuts.

This vote offers Labour one of the few opportunities to drive a massive wedge between the Tories and Libdems, and ensure Boundary Review doesn’t go through and they stop cooperating on other issues.

Frankly, I’m loving all the infighting currently taking place on Twitter.

As I keep saying – stop this govt’s agenda is my key aim. Everything else is noise. And all the accusations that I’m being opportunistic is really missing the point. YES OF COURSE I’M BEING OPPORTUNISTIC. That’s the whole point – to drive a wedge between the Coalition.

Isn’t it obvious that one of the reasons working people are under attack from successive governments is because once a government is elected they can rule unopposed?

Christ!
It’s shocking that people who can string a sentence together think that the House of Commons will give an elected House of Lords the power to put a check on own power and primacy.

Bonkers.

Lastly, for the people claiming the Labour position on this is worse than Hitler invading Poland, it may be good idea to read up on what position the Labour party is actually taking and why.

http://politicalanimals.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/lords-reform-went-the-day-well/

I wrote the piece as my own perspective and despite the comments I’m perfectly happy with my position. It’s shame of course that the Labour party are not listening to me on this 🙂

If it were me in power my key focus would be to fuck up the Coalition when an opportunity like this presents itself. Just being honest.

I tend to agree with Sunny. The Lords has generally been a better check on Government extremes than the Commons. I’d want any replacement to retain or improve that ability. I’m not convinced the Bill does enough in that direction and I’d like to see the proposed boundary changes, except for Mid Beds, scuppered.

Holding back the Coalition may reek too much of realpolitik for some but out here in the sticks it’s welcome.

My readership of this blog has been steadily decreasing due to the flagrant tribalism of posts such as this.

48. Dicky Moore

Sunny writes:
Christ! It’s shocking that people who can string a sentence together think that the House of Commons will give an elected House of Lords the power to put a check on own power and primacy.

Did you watch the debate? Clearly the central concern of the Tory rebels is that an elected house would challenge the supremacy of the commons. Even the fact they would be elected by voters would give a moral mandate to challenge the commons.

Can you imagine if they were elected mid-term?
The coalitions program of attacks could be halted.

But you don’t believe that the commons would allow this. And last night they voted not to allow it. The strange thing is that you supported that cynical behaviour.

49. Matt Kelly

I agree with the thrust of responses to Sunny’s position, but the funny thing is that at least it is honest about the lack of principle. The rest of the Labour party can’t even be honest about having no principles.

Seems to me if anyone wishes to remain a Labour supporter they have to either adopt Sunny’s position or be extremely gullible.

YES OF COURSE I’M BEING OPPORTUNISTIC. That’s the whole point – to drive a wedge between the Coalition.

Then it wasn’t very sensible to invoke principles in the header was it? Because what you’ve written is a pragmatic argument to oppose HoL reform, not a principled one.

51. Chaise Guevara

@ Tim

“Then it wasn’t very sensible to invoke principles in the header was it?”

Especially as he’s made it clear @43 that principles are boring things that make him yawn with worldly-wise boredom.

If you think that disagreement over Lords reform will drive apart the coalition then I have seriously overestimated your analytical skills. They disagreed and suffered infghting over other issues before (Europe, anyone?) this will simply cause a bit of chafing for a fortnight then it’ll be over. To oppose democratic reform for the sake of a fortnight of discomfort in the coalition is both stupid and the worst suppression of political principle.

It’s just occurred to me that the headline on this piece could easily be one of those spoof Muppet Sundial ones.

Leaving aside the whole question of principle, which Sunny was seriously tempting fate to invoke: this is a very, very stupid strategy.

The Lib Dems have nailed their colours to the Coalition mast. Every potential split has not only failed to materialise, but has effectively brought them closer together, for a very simple and obvious reason: every piece of Tory monstrosity they support makes them more unpopular, and therefore more dependent on clinging to the Tories. The collapse of the Coalition would be fatal to the Lib Dems: their only hope of salvaging any votes is to get some of their key legislation through during this Parliament: therefore they will swallow ANY amount of shit to keep things together until 2015. Their choice is between facing extinction now, and staving it off for three years in the hope that they can somehow turn things around in that time: there is NO WAY that they will walk away from the Coalition.

The Tories, however, might. If Lords Reform is passed, it will make a lot of Tory MPs very angry: all the more so if it is passed with Labour support. Not, in the immediate term, angry enough to remove Cameron and ditch the Lib Dems: but it would set them a step further on that road. And a Tory walkout is the ONLY thing that will produce an early election.

Furthermore, whether the election happens early or in 2015, imagine that it produces another hung Parliament, in which enough Lib Dem MPs survive to hold the balance of power. In Sunny’s scenario, they’ll go into the next Parliament as essentially dependents of the Tory Party, and knowing that Labour deliberately wrecked their key project despite agreeing with it. Whereas, if the bill is passed, they’ll go in with an achievement under their belts to make them feel independent, grateful for Labour support on that achievement, and knowing that the Tories resent them and are itching to be rid of them – or else with the achievement and gratitude PLUS the Tories already having ditched them. Tell me: which scenario is most likely to make them well disposed towards a coalition with Labour?

It’s great to see Sunny standing shoulder to shoulder with the most reactionary backward elements of the Conservative hard-right. You can always tell you’re making the right choice when you’re voting with people who would consider Margaret Thatcher a wet social democratic liberal.

56. Geoffrey Payne

The opportunity to reform the house of Lords has been missed. And if Scotland vote for independence we might never see a Labour government in England and Wales ever again. As a result, we might never get democratic House Of Lords reform. And the reason why not is party political.
As a result we will continue to be ruled by party patronage. Well done!

“If it were me in power my key focus would be to fuck up the Coalition when an opportunity like this presents itself. Just being honest.”

But you are not in power, which is why this piece is so pathetic. LC is less independent and objective than Conservative Home, by some distance now.

58. Shatterface

Yawn, the usual cries about principles from the usual suspects.

The ‘usual suspects’ meaning absolutely everyone who has responded to your post.

And if you don’t want to argue about ‘principles’ don’t use the word in your heading.

59. Shatterface

Christ, even sally hasn’t bothered supporting Sunny on this one.

@ 54 Makhno.

I bet you play a pretty good game of chess – I bet Sunny’s game is shit.

^^Rats jumping from a sinking ship…?

Clearly the central concern of the Tory rebels is that an elected house would challenge the supremacy of the commons.

Yes, which is why it won’t happen.

63. Chaise Guevara

@ 58 Shatterface

“The ‘usual suspects’ meaning absolutely everyone who has responded to your post.”

I’m pretty sure that in Sunny’s lexicon “usual suspect” translates as “someone whose arguments have me stumped”.

64. margin4error

Lords reform is a bit of a joke and the fact that the westminster bubble is so obsessed with this makes it look bad to the wider public.

The 10 day timetable was an attempt to overcome that (while not doing the sensible thing and getting over the Commons’ obsession with the other place)

But the ten day timetable was also a ludicrous idea. To whip for constitutional reform with only ten days of debate is utterly outrageous. Everyone knows it. And it was never going to wash.

It was a valiant attempt to reform the constitution according to a need for quid-pro-quo within a coalition – its just that reforming the constitution according to a quid-pro-quo within a coalition of this nature was probably never possible by any means.

65. Dicky Moore

Sunny @62.

You say Lords reform won’t happen because Tory rebels think an elected house would challenge the supremacy of the commons. But your article is not about whether it will or will not happen. It’s about you supporting Labours decision to let it fail. That’s what I take umbrage with. Labour support would have let the bill pass, and a mighty pillar of class entrenchment could have fallen.

I hope in three years, after this coalition has run its course without any kind of wedge hampering it, and without any significant progress made in putting some power into the hands of working people, you reconsider the way you think politics should be conducted.

@54. Makhno

You could also add, that if Lords reform gets passed, then it would cause as much trouble for the government than if it got blocked. Namely there would be an awful lot of angry backbench Tory MPs who who will be really angry with David Cameron. And he will feel the need to appease them by throwing them some red meat, taking the Tories further towards extremism and further away from the electorate.

Also, it would make the Lib Dems more likely to walk away. If they get Lords reform, then they will feel that they have at least got something worthwhile out of being in coalition.

Also it might be a sound idea for Labour not to burn too many bridges with the Lib Dems. Someday they might need them as coalition partners. Assuming they aren’t completely wiped out at the next election.

But the ten day timetable was also a ludicrous idea. To whip for constitutional reform with only ten days of debate is utterly outrageous. Everyone knows it. And it was never going to wash.

Ten days for Committee stage. Two days for Second Reading. Two days for Report.

What would be an appropriate amount of time?

A lot of crying over such a simple article. Sorry guys, this is how it works. Not that I agree Labour should do it, but I agree with this principle.

It’s a question of priorities. What’s more important – driving a wedge between the coalition and stopping them co-operating on things like NHS reform and boundary changes, or having lords reform right now? No one’s saying it’s not necessary at some point, but the situation is not as dire as people like to make out. If Labour successfully derail the government, they can pass it with a majority next term.

So the real question is whether it will actually drive a wedge between the parties, at which point I disagree that it probably won’t The Lib Dems are weak willed and do whatever the Tories want them to do – they happily rolled over on Tuition Fees and the NHS which were far more important than lords reform – why would they rebel now?

Without knowing that is will cause any damage, voting against it is counter-productive. But that’s not to say the principle is wrong.

69. Charlieman

@45. Sunny Hundal: “If it were me in power my key focus would be to fuck up the Coalition when an opportunity like this presents itself. Just being honest.”

Let’s get it clear what you mean. In order to “fuck up the Coalition”, to prevent the government to deliver measures in the next two years with which you disagree, you would risk the chance of Lords reform? Reform for lifetimes.

Which measures scare you? Isn’t it the case that governments dish out all of the scary stuff in years one and two? The one that we await is Lansley’s proposition for care for the elderly. That one is addressing a long term funding and care quality problem. Even if “fucking it up” is politically expedient, it means fucking up the lives of ordinary people.

A very good, punchy and on-point article. For Labour, seeking to drive a wedge between the Coalition partners, rather than isolate both of them, is the savvy thing to do. This is about tactics, not tribalism.

Lords reform is poisonous and messy issue. I am fully convinced of the arguments that say the HOL is undemocratic and archaic. What I am not convinced of, however, is the need for reforming it. Why not just abolish the whole thing? See: http://bit.ly/OXiD4P

71. Alun Parsons

“Most Labour MPs will also vote against [Lords reform]”

Actually most Labour MPs voted for it. Most of those who opposed were Tories. Labour voted for their manifesto commitment, and for the second reading. There was no vote on the programme motion, so Labour did not get the opportunity to vote against that.

There is an entirely reasonable discussion to be had about how much parliamentary time should be allocated to debating the bill. One could argue that the coalition did not offer enough time for such a major constitutional change. One could equally argue that Labour is merely trying to stir up trouble amongst the coalition parties.

But in the final analysis, Labour voted in favour of this bill, and let us not forget that Labour’s manifesto also called for a referendum on Lords reform, so it is not incompatible with the Labour manifesto for them to vote against a reform that does not follow from a referendum.

Let us get our facts straight. It was mainly Tories that voted against the second reading. Labour were set to oppose the programme motion, one can make of that what one likes. (Personally I would have liked them to support the programme motion, but accept their arguments about needing more time). But a government should be able to pass its own legislation, and if it can’t, then it is no government at all.

Lib Dems are currently desperately trying to blame Labour for the lost programme motion, conveniently ignoring the fact that close to a third of the parliamentary Tory Party, which is bound to the coalition agreement, voted against it! They contort themselves into an untenable argument when they seek to condone the betrayal of their coalition partners, and put the blame on the loss of the timetable motion on the head of the opposition.

Labour did not oppose, never had opposed, and never even said it would oppose the Lords Reform Bill. What it opposed was the Programme Motion, giving the bill just 11 days to debate. That is too short to debate such an important consitutional reform.

Moreoever, the Lib Dems brought this on themselves, Clegg and co refused to co-operative with Labour to reach a consensus on Lords reform and came up with a very poor and very weak bill because of it. If longer debate leads to a better bill than that is great, and if it stops the ConDem coalition from imposing even more right wing policies on the nation, even better.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Robert CP

    I'm honest: when a unique opportunity arises to screw up Libdem / Tory relations, Labour should take it http://t.co/evy7S0UE

  2. sunny hundal

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  3. Tony McMahon

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  4. faz hakim

    I love "as a leftie"! “@sunny_hundal: My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/lJKir7tY”

  5. Sarah McGuire

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  6. SorryI'llGetMyCoat

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  7. Xanno M

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  8. Carolyne Smith

    My piece earlier > Why Labour is right to oppose House of Lords reform http://t.co/e9k0W2v4

  9. BevR

    Why Labour is right in principle to vote against Lords Reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ujcXKMZa via @libcon

  10. Foxy52

    Why Labour is right in principle to vote against Lords Reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ujcXKMZa via @libcon

  11. BevR

    Why Labour is right in principle to vote against Lords Reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ujcXKMZa via @libcon

  12. Dicky Moore

    Remind me never to read Liberal Conspiracy or Sunny Hudal. This post and his comments on it have put me off for life: http://t.co/WyAXZ3sR

  13. Eugene Grant

    Why Labour's right in principle to vote against #LordsReform http://t.co/xEJrvbyy > @sunny_hundal is spot on w/ his analysis here. Must read

  14. House of Lords reform is not going to happen this Parliament | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] reason, of course, is that Labour won’t go along with the bill as is. I’ve already made my position clear: I’d have no qualms in killing it as a way to cripple the Coalition and its destructive […]

  15. Ivan White

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  16. logic-bomb

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  17. Adele Andrews

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  18. Collette Mather

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  19. A Positive Life

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  20. Brian Tomkinson

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX

  21. david pemberton

    “Labour’s aim should be to ensure this is a 1-term government and stop it from passing more destructive legislation.” http://t.co/3jKa8eZX





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.