Goodbye House of Lords Reform
The u-turn on introducing elections to the House of Lords crosses another red line for the Liberal Democrats
Today it was officially announced that the House of Lords reform was to be dropped – of course, it had been expected for a while, but one couldn’t cross their fingers enough that the first day of Parliament after the Summer Recess didn’t have the announcement on its agenda; unfortunately, it was.
And this brings about several questions; when will the Lords really be reformed? What does this mean for the coalition? And what more damage will this have for the Liberal Democrats?
It is shameful that a reform, that will make the UK much more democratic and our decision-makers more legitimate giving citizens more say in Parliament, has been dropped due to a backbench rebellion from the Tories. Regardless of the rebellion, it was almost guaranteed that the reform would have been successfully voted through with support from a vast number of MPs across the main three parties. Yet, repelled by the prospect of losing party support, David Cameron has decided to drop the bill.
It is not the first time that the Lords has been attempted to be reformed; in fact, the decision to reform the Lords was first made in 1911 – yet 101 years on, we have made no progress – both the Blair and Cameron/Clegg ministries have said something about it but neither has succeeded – why are Governments so scared of losing the Lords? The only possible reasons I can find is the expertise of existing Lords (who could easily run for election), the cost and a possibility of political deadlock; but is that the price we must have to pay for our democracy? Apparently so – perhaps it will be reintroduced to the agenda following 2015, or maybe the parties will have forgotten about it by then – especially if Scottish independence is on the tables.
What does this mean for the coalition? Little, apparently. Clegg’s consequences are that the Lib Dems will no longer vote in favour of proposed constituency boundaries – something that might not even appear on the agenda prior to 2015 anyway. And besides, after the many contradictory to their manifesto changes that have been made, the Liberal Democrats will not shy away from a coalition that simply exists to prop the Tories up; name me one successful Liberal Democrat change and I will name you twenty Tory changes. A fresh call for Clegg to resign may be all over the newspapers tomorrow, but will he? I doubt it; now he is simply power-hungry. And would Vince Cable be any better? I can’t say for sure.
As for the Liberal Democrats – regardless of who is in the Leadership positions it is certain that they will not bounce back from their 2011 election drop. They will not see another Government position for a long time now and we will most certainly see a return to a two-party system – this was the Lib Dems’ time to shine, and get themselves known, but instead they became whipped and lost their own principles. I’m surprised so many MPs have remained the Lib Dem party and not yet switched or become Independent. I’m sure that’s what I’d have done if I were a Lib Dem MP.
Perhaps this is the time for the Green Party to begin building on the Lib Dems’ losses – support is seemingly growing at present, and with the announcement of the new leader today being Natalie Bennett – perhaps a new face, who may be more powerful and persuading than Caroline Lucas, will bring with it a new opposition to the House of Commons – and maybe in the far future, the House of Lords.
I think we know one thing about this Government; they will be known for their harsh austerity cuts, and their considerable number of U-Turns.