Saturday, 23 January 2010

Save the hereditaries!

It is only 99 years since the fully hereditary House of Lords finally lost its absolute power to veto anything and everything the Tory party did not think was in the national interest: a power they used with such relish and so little discretion that they shot themselves in the foot and so unwittingly helped to usher in a more democratic polity, albeit against screaming Tory warnings of apocalypse. (Next Left looked at those great political battles of 1910 to mark the new year).

We all know that our progressive Conservative contemporaries have changed a great deal since them. Yet their reactionary forebears would surely be pleased by the modern Tory willingness to contest the final chapter of the constitutional struggles of a century ago, with the Sunday Times reporting that they plan to oppose, in 2010, the proposal to mark time on the last 92 British legislators who sit in our Parliament to vote on our laws by accident of birth. (The proposal is to do this through the rather gentle, ever so gradualist method of not replacing heredetaries when they die, so the removal of the remaining hereditary peers is likely to take a couple of decades or more anyway).

The Tories may well present this as opposing 'piecemeal' reform.

But that is not a claim that stands up particularly well to scrutiny.

Some in the opposition party privately acknowledge that the concern is primarily about a future Tory government not having a Lords majority for the first time in British political history. That must be a most troubling prospect, albeit one which every single non-Tory government ever has always faced.

Another problem with this pose is that the Tories have no intention of pursuing significant non-piecemeal reform of their own if they were in power any time soon.

That won't be their public position at the election, where they will stress their support for a mostly elected House. But they are quietly clear that the issue will have the lowest priority under a Tory government. Their polite, private euphemism for inaction is that David Cameron regards Lords reform as a "third term issue".

Given the history of Lords reform, under both parties, I think we can all have a good sense of what that means ...

this term, next term, sometime, never ...


Lumpen-commentariat said...

Labour and the liberal democrats should promise to convert the lords into an elected upper house.

Robert said...

we cannot get enough people to vote in elections I doubt they even bother voting for the Lords.

Letters From A Tory said...

Does anyone still care about House of Lords reform? Wasn't there something about it in the Labour 1997 manifesto, yet barely anything has changed since then?