Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Of House of Lords reform and Brxit

Back in 2010, along with every Conservative candidate and every Labour candidate I fought that year's general election on a platform of replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber. I still support that policy.

David Cameron tried to carry out that promise but it was sabotaged by an alliance of opposites consisting of Conservative rebels and the Labour party.

The official line of  Ed Miliband's Labour party was that they wanted to see the House of Lords reformed but that they could not support the timetable bill motion which would limit debate (but in practice was necessary to get it through.)

26 Labour MPs didn't even pretend to support reform of the House of Lords and voted against the second reading of the bill. The measure was killed by Ed Miliband's tacit opposition and the active opposition of those 26 Labour MPs and 91 Conservative rebels.

A list of the 117 MPs who voted against reform of the House of Lords in 2012 can be found here and makes very interesting reading.

It is a very diverse list, with the Tory MPs involved ranging from the wettest of the wets for the driest of the dry and it would appear likely that the MPs who killed the measure did so for a whole range of very different reasons. What is indisputable is that this decision has come back to haunt those 2012 rebels who are ardent supporters of Brexit.

A small minority of members of the House of Lords are quite openly using their position to try to frustrate Brexit.

A much larger number of peers, who would deny that they are trying to frustrate the will of the electorate, have passed amendments to the EU reform bill which seek to put constraints on the ability of the government to negotiate which are presented as giving more power over the process of negotiating Britain's exit from the EU to the House of Commons.

Some of the proposals put forward in the Lords were quite clearly wrecking amendments designed to block the implementation of the referendum result, although the worst of these were not passed.

I have my concerns that some of the amendments which have been passed could go horribly wrong. The Brexiteers are convinced that all the amendments are sabotage.

Those ministers and supporters of Brexit who backed David Cameron in 2012, such as Dr Liam Fox, can without hypocrisy criticise the "unelected" Lords for passing amendments which he thinks are likely to make a successful Brexit more difficult, because Liam Fox isn't one of the people who stopped the unelected Lords from being replaced by an elected second chamber.

Some of those who did, however, are among those who have been complaining about the "unelected" Lords this week. It all rather brings to mind the saying "Be careful what you wish for. You may get it."

No comments: