Westminster presses Lords reform ‘snooze’ button again

I’d just like to apologise for the lack of activity from The Political Idealist over the past few days. I’ve been on holiday in northern Yorkshire, and much though it is wonderful, there is a distinct lack of reliable mobile Internet access over there. But normal service has been resumed, and so we now return to British politics…

David Cameron has more-or-less conceded that he cannot win round enough of his rebel backbenchers to push through House of Lords reform. Obviously, no PM will admit in public that they cannot control their own party, but it is plain to see that this is what has happened. And this is rather problematic to Cameron as the Coalition Agreement that keeps him in Number 10 (and according to the polls, a popular Miliband out) states the Government’s commitment to the Liberal Democrat’s demand for a democratically elected House of Lords.

The Political Idealist, like many observers, expected Nick Clegg to roll over yet again and accept the trampling of a further Lib Dem pledge. As it transpires, Nick Clegg would sort-of do this, but not before a good whine at the Tories and a promise to block the Tories’ project of gerrymandering, under which they would have been up to 20 seats better off. Yes, there was certainly merit in equalising constituency sizes in terms of population,but not electorate, as was planned. Which party benefits from discounting non-voters from constituency sizes? You guessed it: the Conservatives.

Then there was the idea of reducing the headcount of MPs from 650 to 600. The really interesting point to note here is that a certain party would have to work harder to maintain its proportion of seats above or below 600. Which party would that be? You know; the one with creepy Treasury and Education spokespeople, with local branches dominated by women in silly hats, and which foams at the mouth upon hearing the words ‘single parent’.

So yes, democrats should, on balance, welcome the demise of these boundary changes. However, the cost is far too high. The prospect of a modern, democratic House of Lords has yet again fallen by the wayside. Our second chamber will continue to consist of CofE bishops, aristocratic heriditary peers, party minions favoured by a one time PM, and a large number of other people snoozing on the red benches.

This ramshackle collection of individuals, many of whom are valuable, but far too many who are not, will continue to have a lack of accountability that is incompatible with a modern democracy. How long until the British public are allowed to choose who is fit to represent them at all levels of government? We must ensure that it doesn’t take another century.

“H G”

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