Strains in the Coalition?


             The Lib Dems are sending warning noises. They are telling Conservatives that Conservative MPs have to vote for their House of Lords reform if we are to have their continued support for reducing the Commons to 600 seats as proposed and promised. Some are hinting that if Conservatives do not support them on Tuesday they will want to walk away from the Coalition.

               This is proving counter productive with some Conservative MPs. They argue that given the current state of the polls the Lib Dems are not going to want an early election. Conservative MPs remember the agreement to give the Lib Dems a referendum on the AV  voting system in return for agreement to cut the number of MPs. Conservatives delivered on that promise.  The 2010 in take of Conservative MPs are tiring of whips’ threats if they fail to get into line on government votes. They take even stronger exception if the Lib Dems use the same arguments as the whips, but do it in public.

              The rebellion planned for tomorrow  night is a rebellion led by and planned by the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs. Jesse Norman and Nadhim Zahawi have set out a clear case against the current Lords reform proposals and have kept pressure up on the government throughout the planning stages of this measure, warning them of the strong Conservative opposition to it.  The Bill should pass its second reading easily because Labour, of course, are on the side of the Coalition government. Whether the guillotine motion to limit debate also passes is more doubtful, as presumably Labour will be with the Conservative rebels on that motion.

                I do not expect this vote to end the Coalition. I do expect the Bill for Lords reform to have a troubled passage. The government has the votes to clear the Commons all the time Labour helps them, but the Lords will be another matter. There was wisdom in saying we would only proceed with Lords reform once there is a wide consensus on what reform is needed. The government has procedural devices it can use to prevent the debates on the Bill going on for ever. They can move closures, and order all night sittings if necessary. In effect Labour will decide on when and how the Bill gets through the Commons, if the Conservative rebels stick to their view and are there in the strength their leaders say they enjoy.

                I do think we need a “use it or lose it rule” when granting people the right to sit in the Upper House. It would be good to have a limit on how long people enjoy the privilege, or at least introduce a suitably high retirement age. For those with party affiliations, there could be a ban on appointing anyone who had given large sums of money to their party.


  1. Gerry Dorrian
    July 9, 2012

    Liberalism has changed. The cerabral and visceral, and therefore muscular, liberals of 18th century America forged the ideas that fire free-thinkers worldwide today. Modern liberalism is a travesty of that, its slogan effectively being “you are free to think what you want, as long as what you think falls within the parameters we set you”. Or, as somebody of a similar mindset said long ago, “error has no rights”.

    1. forthurst
      July 9, 2012

      Can any political movement based on idealism survive the existence of a privately owned central bank?

      1. Denis Cooper
        July 9, 2012

        Lucky, then, that our central bank is publicly owned.

        1. forthurst
          July 9, 2012

          I wasn’t refering to the BoE

  2. lifelogic
    July 9, 2012

    Let us hope the half baked reforms, clearly designed to assist Libdem power in the Lords are killed stone dead. The last think we need is more LibDem policies – a bigger state, higher taxes, more expensive green tosh, more John Lewis tosh, forced equality and more parasitic EU. These are needed like a hole in the head.

    Vince Cable seems finally to have noticed the extent to which “the banks are ‘throttling the UK economic recovery”. They have indeed been do this for about 4 years. Needless to say being a LibDem he has totaly the wrong reasons for it, suggesting they are anti-business, have an obsession with short-term trading profits and are not focusing on the long term.

    The truth is the new regulations on banks means they do not have enough to lend and so are rationing funding by price and restictive rules. Also regulations force them to lend to governments and not to industry and the coalition policies of over regulation, absurd employment laws, over taxation, a large state, expensive green tosh, more EU, Labour in 2015 tend to make them even more restrictive.

    Perhaps in two more year he may finally work this out too?

    Also the government owns much of Natwest RBS and LloydsTSB and they are doing much of the damage. RBS have forced many to repay or refinance Millions virtually casusing a recession by this alone. They are your banks Mr Cable, sort them out and stop winging, the fault lies squarely with the coalition policies.

    1. lifelogic
      July 9, 2012

      Steve Webb, the pensions minister, has said he wants to give people a guaranteed income when they retired by insuring against falls in their investments.

      Well they can already, but the protection they really need is from people like Gorden Brown and the state robbing them, governments forcing them to lend (at negive real interest rates) to the state through buying duff anuities (at artificially suppressed rates), poor investment performance caused by a poorly regulated, financial services industy and the hugely anti growth government policies of the coalition. Also inflation linked pensions for state sector worker of 10+ times those of the private sector who have to pay them.

      1. oldtimer
        July 9, 2012

        This sounds like another uncosted, pie-in-the-sky idea. As you point out private pension provision has been decimated by successive frauds visited on them – notably the pensions tax, and the QE/low gilt rate stitch-up engineered by Mr Brown.

      2. Bob
        July 9, 2012


        “…the protection they really need is from people like Gordon Brown and the state…”

        Mr Redwood,
        Any chance you could convey this simple truth to the government?

        Obviously this “scheme” would be financed by even more taxation.

        Perhaps they ought to unwind some of the damaging actions they have already taken against savers and pensioners?

      3. Bob
        July 9, 2012

        Order reports that the Tory “Free Enterprise Group” now wants to shift more of the NI burden from the young to the over 65s.

        If even a Tory free enterprise group is unwilling to push back on Gordon Brown’s settlement the country is stuffed…

        If you’re an over 65 Tory voter, you deserve everything you’ve got coming to you.

        1. Michael Lee
          July 9, 2012

          I am over 65 and a Tory voter. When whatever is coming to me arrives, I’ll deal with it. I’ve dealt with such problems throughout my working life. That’s why I’m now retired with a comfortable living.

  3. Single Acts
    July 9, 2012

    Not that one can assume any rationale on the part of the Lib Dems, but you would imagine they have at least a sense of self-preservation. So I am forced to ask, would a party polling at 9% force a general election?

    1. uanime5
      July 9, 2012

      Given that the Conservatives don’t have a majority in Parliament they can’t pass any bills opposed by Labour and the Lib Dems, so the Lib Dems can cause major problems even without forcing an election.

      Also under the new rules created by the Coalition two thirds of MPs have to vote to dissolve Parliament. So without the support of Labour the Conservatives can’t dissolve Parliament.

      Reply: unless a motion of no confidence is lost by a simple majority

  4. Pete the Bike
    July 9, 2012

    Considering that the Lib Dems represent far less than 10% of the population they have no right at all to dictate changes to anything. Let them do their worst.

    1. uanime5
      July 9, 2012

      The Lib Dems got 23.0% of the votes in the last election it’s clear they make up more than 10% of the population.

      1. libertarian
        July 9, 2012

        Er how come you are so wrong about everything? Is it deliberate?

        There are 47 million eligible voters in the UK

        27 million voted at the last General election

        5.9 million voted for Lib Dems

        So roughly 11% voted for Lib Dems

        As the total Uk population is 62,232,000 that means the Lib Dems make up less than 0.9% of the population in total

        1. uanime5
          July 10, 2012

          As usual you facts are wrong.

          29 million people voted in 2010 and the Lib Dems got 6.8 million votes. It was in 2005 27 million people voted and the Lib Dems got 5.9 million votes. So in 2010 the Lib Dems got 23% of the votes, in 2005 they got 22.0%.

          5.9 million is not 11% of 27 million, it’s 21.9%. It seems that you can’t do basic maths libertarian.

          Finally if you’re going to calculate the support of political parties using the whole population of the UK (including 15 million people who can’t vote) then you should include the other parties for comparison. Below is the percentage of support each party has in the whole of the UK.

          Conservatives: 17.2%
          Labour: 13.8%
          Lib Dems: 11.0%
          Can’t vote: 24.1%
          Didn’t vote: 32.1%
          Other: 1.8%

          So your claim that the Lib Dem support make up less than 0.9% is completely wrong and more people preferred not to vote than to vote for the Conservatives.

  5. colliemum
    July 9, 2012

    “For those with party affiliations, there could be a ban on appointing anyone who had given large sums of money to their party.”

    Why stop there?
    Why not prohibit appointing anyone who is or has been a member of a political party?
    People are fully aware that the LibDem reform proposals will mean in practice that even more party politicians will get their wallets filled by us.
    Seeing that the membership numbers of both Labour and Tory Party have been shrinking over the last few years, it isn’t as if non-party members will be hard to find!

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      July 9, 2012

      I agree. If it must be changed, let’s have a House of Lords with all political parties excluded.

    2. Acorn
      July 9, 2012

      Have a read of how Washington State does a “Primary” election. The significant point is that the party does not get to choose the candidate; but the candidate expresses a preference for a particular party or no party at all. You are electing an individual citizen, not party whipped voting lobby fodder as we do in the UK. .

      1. Denis Cooper
        July 9, 2012

        Read it.

        Do you know how it works out in practice?

        1. Acorn
          July 9, 2012

          It is complicated, there are numerous differing systems for running a primary election. Some States require voter registration on a party basis, some don’t. Most of my contacts are in Colorado. There are only one or two major races this year in that State and a change in federal law means that the primaries have been moved forward into the summer; hence, poor turn-out.

          As far as they understand our system, they would not accept a system, where the only candidates they could vote for, were those put forward by the political parties.

  6. Mike Stallard
    July 9, 2012

    Several things come out of these very wise remarks:
    1. The Libdems cannot be trusted. So if you cannot trust them, why should we, the voters?
    2. The Conservatives have behaved honourably, but they are split and this is fatal. And UKIP are making more and more progress every day as the EU sinks into serious trouble and Nigel Farage is becoming more and more credible.
    3. Labour have a lot of advantages – unfair constituency boundaries, postal votes, an extremely attractive message constantly repeated, and hunger for power – which make them very strong indeed.
    4. The Lords actually do not need much reform. If a fing ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The constitution is a living being. Cutting it about wildly and unsympathetically is just, well, mad.

    1. APL
      July 9, 2012

      Mike Stallard: “3. Labour have a lot of advantages – unfair constituency boundaries, postal votes, an extremely attractive message constantly repeated, and hunger for power”

      Why hasn’t Cameron taken steps to address this matters?

      Abuse of the postal vote is especially egregious.

    2. lifelogic
      July 9, 2012

      “Labour have a lot of advantages – unfair constituency boundaries, postal votes, an extremely attractive message constantly repeated, and hunger for power – which make them very strong indeed.”

      They also have the power of the evil (and self destructive), politics of envy and all will be forced to be equal agenda. Their typical rather dimmer supporters fall for it time after time. Even Cameron & Osborne pathetically indulge in it now as we have recently seen in the tax payer polo ponies and yachts for the poor sports people nonsence the Cameron was hinting at.

      The Main advantage Labour have it that Cameron has done nothing to get any growth (quite the reverse). It is not rather too late to do much other than to allow Labour inherit a slightly better position in 2015.

      The only advantage the Tories have is the uslessness of Miliband but he is less usless than Brown and Cameron could not even beat him.

    3. Christopher Ekstrom
      July 10, 2012

      Keeping up appearances is essential whilst running a fiddle. Only BBC Brigade takes Lords “reform” seriously. But they are rearranging the deck chairs on on the SS Coalition. Watching SamCam bumble into political limbo will justify every UKIP attack on this “conservative” party. It’s time to throw the bums out!

  7. Mr. Green
    July 9, 2012

    I quite like the idea of putting only people with expertise in the House of Lords.

    People like John Prescott or Peter Mandelson may display a (words left out) cunning, an egregious ability to spin, dissemble and hector, to (look after themselves-ed) while living like new feudal lords off the backs of the long-suffering peasants of the UK (that’s enough contumely, Ed.) but what value do they add to HoL procedures?

    Scientists, industrialists OK, but political creatures, please let’s restrict their burgeoning expenses claims.

    1. APL
      July 9, 2012

      JR: “(that’s enough contumely, Ed.)”

      This is soo funny. The one thing about your blog Mr Redwood, is it provides us in the political wilderness, those who don’t care much about politics and those who just want to be left alone by your self serving class, an opportunity to let you all know inside the Westminster bubble exactly what we think of our political class.

      For people who call themselves ‘honourable’ and ‘right honourable’ while milking the public finances, people who raise taxes on the simple pleasures of the working man , a pint here, a smoke there, meanwhile use the public purse to subsidize their own standard of living, eating and drinkin in the palace of Westminster … there can never be enough contumely.

      1. Tad Davison
        July 9, 2012

        APL I have to be careful what words I use too. For one thing, the ones I’d prefer to use, and indeed DO use in private to describe a great many politicians, would never get past the moderator anyway. But it’s good to know my lowly opinions of them are shared by others.


    2. Denis Cooper
      July 9, 2012

      The system works so that Prescott and Mandelson could get themselves elected to the Commons and re-elected to the Commons even when you’d think that their constituents would have recoiled from them in disgust, heaping “contumely” on their heads. I don’t see any realistic general solution to that problem of the main political parties being able to get the wrong people into the House of Commons while keeping out better people. However it’s obvious that they shouldn’t later be installed in the second legislative chamber of Parliament for the rest of their natural lives.

  8. Leslie Singleton
    July 9, 2012

    It is insane to make major constitutional changes just because the Liberals want them–and solely for their own purposes. It is doubly insane for there not to be a referendum. Presumably the Liberals aren’t so keen on referenda as they were–wonder why. People simply don’t care what politicians say any more. Reform might be one thing but what is on offer is a cobbled-together dog’s breakfast with nothing resembling consensus. Cameron should be deeply ashamed for being so weak-kneed. It so very much looks as if he just wants to cling on as PM at all costs. I don’t have the exact words in front of me but I’m fairly certain the Conservative Manifesto did not commit to anything like this on the subject–it just said “seek reform” or somesuch. The Lords works well and cheaply. I hope the Lords tell the ghastly Liberals to go hang themselves and that they fight in the ditch on this.

    1. lojolondon
      July 9, 2012

      As we can see, Cameron will face Clegg and promise to support him, then not bother to whip the back-benchers and watch it fail. Pretty spineless, but that is exactly what we have come to expect.

  9. APL
    July 9, 2012

    JR: “The Lib Dems are sending warning noises.”

    They want to look tough with the Libbo Tory administration, a general election is on the horizon.

    If the Tory party had any backbone, it’d tell the Liberals where to go! And it wouldn’t be a nice place.

    Cameron hasn’t got one, so he will bend over backwards to try to accommodate the Lib-Dumbs then they will still stab him in the back when it suits them.

  10. lowflyingseagull
    July 9, 2012

    If Betty Boothroyd & Nigel Lawson are against lords reform then it must be wrong.

    1. oldtimer
      July 9, 2012

      I believe that David Steel was also a signatory to the letter from the Lords.

    2. lifelogic
      July 9, 2012

      I have never liked Betty Boothroyd who seems far too short to have been a tiller girl – her main claim to fame. This even though I know many do like her. I suppose the speakers that followed Martin and Bercow made her seem good but then they would have made a Banana look good.

      She is surely right on this though. Lawson too make mistake as Chancellor he should have listened to the sense of Professor Sir Alan Walters then we might never have had to suffer the ERM, John Major, Blair & Brown. Together they have presided over a huge & pointless disaster for 15+ years.

      Still Lawson is right on climate change this and climate change and seem to have more wisdom now.

      1. lifelogic
        July 9, 2012

        With Cameron then Milliband to follow too perhaps 25 years of going backwards.

      2. lowflyingseagull
        July 9, 2012

        Ll agree with you completely but was in a hurry to get to work otherwise I would have elaborated more instead of the short comment made.

  11. Sue
    July 9, 2012

    They won’t walk away from the coalition, they’re loving the power, you can tell. This subject requires more debate and how about asking us, the peasants what we think? If the powers that be actually read their own members site “Conservative Home” they would realise that nearly all of their members just hate the idea of “fiddling while Rome burns”.

    The Libdems should think themselves lucky to be where they are. Come next election if they don’t get rid of Clegg, they’re dead in the water anyway.

    1. APL
      July 9, 2012

      Sue: “they’re dead in the water anyway”

      Ditto the Conservatives and Cameron.

  12. alan jutson
    July 9, 2012

    All I would say is for Mp’s to vote with the true feelings of their constituants, who by and large I would suggest, have other more pressing priorities.

    Kick the Whips into touch, and if the Lib Dems want to call it a day, then let them.

    The Lib Dems have promoted their unique brand of politics, the cat is out of the bag, not many like it.
    They only want change for their own selfish, self preservation.

    Time to see if Cameron is able to govern without them with a minority government, before holding any general election.

  13. Chris
    July 9, 2012

    Betty Boothroyd’s advice on Today programme is the best I have heard.

  14. Horatio McSherry
    July 9, 2012


    Ten/Fifteen years ago I would possibly have been in surrport of Lords reform; get rid of all those stuffy, family-gifted, out-of touch old folk costing us a an arm and a leg for sleeping in the Upper House all day and replace them with demotratically elected peers. However, after seeing what a vindictive, vicious, pro-European socialist party can do to a country, I think over the reign of the Neo Labour government the House of Lords – because of their deep-rooted ties, history, and belonging to this country – either put paid or neutralised many dangerous, illiberal, and – ironically – anti-democratic pieces of legislation the last givernment wanted to ram through Parliament to foist on the British people. They have acted in the interests of this country against the self-interest of very many elected politicians – present company excepted of course – and therefore, at the very least until the European question is settled, the Lords should remain as it is.

  15. Brian Tomkinson
    July 9, 2012

    This typifies the negative side of coalition government. We have a minority party trying to dictate to the majority. This rump has tried to manipulate the voting system to ensure their continued position at the centre of government but thankfully failed. They now want to do a similar thing in the Lords to achieve a similar power grab. The proposals for reform of the House of Lords would be laughable if they were not such a serios affront to our parliament. The coalition was formed, we were told, to deal with the economy. The record so far is little different from that of the disastrous Labour government. Cameron, at the behest of Clegg, is happily fiddling whilst the economy continues to struggle. Not only should Conservatives defy the threats of the Lib Dems they should do so in the knowledge that they will be acting in the national interest.

    1. Denis Cooper
      July 9, 2012

      Instead between them Labour and the Tories have managed to retain a voting system which helps them to maintain their duopoly, suppressing any emerging competition from smaller or newer parties.

  16. Bill
    July 9, 2012

    Surely what this is about is giving the Lib Dems a permanent place in the Parliament of this country? If the ‘Senators’ in the new HoL are voted by proportional representation, the Lib Dems assume they will always have a power block there. This means that forever and a day the Lib Dems will have people, chosen from the party list, who will sit in the upper house. Thus, while they are wiped out in the first past the post polls and in the Commons, they sit in the Lords and, because they are elected, have a permanent influence on the country.

    Or am I wrong about the proposed voting system for the Lords and the likely outcome?

    1. Mark
      July 9, 2012

      Perhaps under PR the number of political seats should be constrained by turnout, with the balance reserved for cross-benchers. I suspect that such a provision might cause turnout to fall sharply!

    2. uanime5
      July 9, 2012

      You’re right that the Senate will reflect the voting preference of the general population, rather than the preference of a constituency’s loudest minority.

      1. Bill
        July 10, 2012

        So I am right, then? This is about embedding Lib Dems into the political culture permanently.

        1. lifelogic
          July 10, 2012

          Indeed it is and what a dreadful thought.

        2. uanime5
          July 10, 2012

          They g0t 23% of the votes in the last election, why shouldn’t they get 23% of the seats.

          1. Patrick Loaring
            July 11, 2012

            The voters of this country having seen a Lib Dem party in government that has completely torn up its election promises and used threats to the conservatives to achieve it’s self serving HoL reforms. We have seen the true face of Lib Dem politics and it is not a pretty sight. They are destined to return to the fringes of National politics.
            Since Labour came to power in 1997 we have seen taxation levels rise to the highest in the Western World and the basis of the problem with our economy is that we are all paying too much tax to pay for the excessive spending put in place by Labour. The gap between what the taxes pay for and government expenditure is currently made up by the government borrowing more money from the banks thus adding to the problems.
            I can well remember the state of the country pre 1997 before the Labour government borrow and spend politics and we have to return to sane economic reality otherwise future generations will have to live under a mountain of debt.
            This country had to pay off a mountain of debt after World War 2 and that caused hardships for many many years and the War was not self inflicted as the irresponsible spending by 13 years of Labour was. Do the electorate really believe that Labour will get us out of the mess that they caused? If they do then God help this country!

  17. Denis Cooper
    July 9, 2012

    Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011:

    the date of the next general election will be May 7th 2015.

    It may be remembered that the two coalition parties wished to reassure the markets that their coalition would be stable and would stay the course, and setting the date of the next general election in legal stone was part of that.

    By giving her Royal Assent to that Act the Queen relinquished the Royal Prerogative of dissolving Parliament at any time she chose to do so, on the advice of her Prime Minister, so it is not open to Cameron to threaten coalition MPs with an early general election through that route.

    If Cameron was tempted to use the threat of an early general election to restore discipline, even though that would put the economic future of the country at grave risk, there are still two ways he could try to do that, but neither offers him a reliable way to bring wayward coalition MPs into line.

    The first involves a Commons motion in the form:

    “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.”

    which can only pass if the number of MPs who vote for it equals or exceeds two thirds of the total number of seats, and assembling that supermajority would be very difficult without official support from both the Tory and Labour parties.

    Alternatively he could contrive to have a motion of no confidence tabled, and Labour might feel compelled to officially support that; but it seems unlikely that the Labour leaders would really want to return to government in the near future, rather than have the Tories continue to take more and more of the blame for the economic problems and the pain inflicted on the electorate, so it might be found that a crucial number of Labour MPs were inexplicably absent from the vote without having arranged pairs.

    I may be surprised but it seems to me that the threat of an early general election is not credible, and so until 2015 rebellious coalition MPs need only fear the reaction of their party machines, not that of their constituents.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      July 9, 2012

      Denis, how do you read the influence of the EU elections in 2014 on a 2015 general election result?

      On current trends the Conservatives will come second to UKIP, the EU elections being a customer made opportunity for a protest vote. This will raise the UKIP profile enormously. So UKIP could have an influence on which party forms a government in 2015.

      It might mean it will be Labour. But it could also mean another coalition government, this time with UKIP as the junior partners.

      The significance of this is that Cameron might wish to take the EU elections out of the picture, and this takes us back to your points on how an early general election might come about.

      I hope it will be 2015, for it could be the most interesting for many a while.

  18. Denis Cooper
    July 9, 2012

    Now that some rebel Tory MPs have openly declared their intention to organise a filibuster and talk the Bill out, it may be that the Labour leaders will have second thoughts about opposing the guillotine motion.

    Mass absention by Labour MPs should be enough to make sure that the motion passed, while also enabling those Labour MPs to truthfully say that they didn’t support it.

    As far as the vote on the Bill is concerned, it’s worth noting that it’s the second reading of a Bill in the Commons that sets the clock ticking for the purposes of the Parliament Acts, which would make it possible for the Bill to be sent for Royal Assent over the objections of the Lords after a delay of about thirteen months.

  19. Bryan
    July 9, 2012

    What a wonderful idea – AV and the list system of appointment. Our MEP’s are ‘elected like this and the nearest our appointed LibDem MEP ever seemed to get to her constituency was flying over it to and fro Brussels . Really accountable to the electors!!!

    It is time to kick the LibDems into touch where they belong given they show no semblance of loyalty to the Coalition at all. In the meantime I wonder how the Conservative Party elected a Leader and got David Cameron?

  20. norman
    July 9, 2012

    Good to see the Conservatives finally standing up for their values and not rolling over all the time.

    Let’s hope this can be the start of a more practical way forward rather than all the directionless fudges and half baked plans we’ve seen over the last two years that aim to please everyone.

  21. Denis Cooper
    July 9, 2012

    The truth is that the Tory party was happiest with the Lords when it had a permanent and large Tory majority, so that it rarely caused serious problems for a Tory government but could obstruct a non-Tory government – previously a Liberal government, later a Labour or Labour-Liberal coalition government.

    That narrow, contemptible, party interest has always been at the root of the Tory party leaders’ opposition to reform of the Lords, however it may be dressed up with specious objections and feigned concern about the constitutional implications which can be repeated by its supporters in the media and elsewhere.

    And actually I agree with them that a Labour government should always have to reckon with effective opposition in the Lords, which if it cannot be overcome by argument and persuasion may have to be overcome by use of the Parliament Acts, with an unwelcome delay of about thirteen months before a government Bill passed by the Commons can receive Royal Assent without the consent of the Lords.

    Where I differ is in believing that the same should also apply to a Tory government, that it should always be in the same position of facing effective opposition in the Lords.

    Which is the paramount reason why for more than a decade I’ve been suggesting the FPTP-SPTP electoral system, deliberately ensuring that whichever single party wins a majority in the Commons at a general election will not also have a majority in the Lords.

    Reply: I am pleased to report that the old Lords was never reliably in favour of Conservative government proposals, and frequently made it clear it wanted change to policy.

    1. Denis Cooper
      July 9, 2012

      Then you should be pleased with the concept of a Conservative government facing much more intense opposition in the Lords, which after the Conservatives had lost a general election would automatically switch to the successor Labour government facing much more intense opposition in the Lords.

      1. Alan Wheatley
        July 9, 2012

        In my ideal world the House of Lords is largely peopled by cross-benchers, who consider the merits of the matter before them in the light of their own knowledge and the persuasiveness of the argument, and then vote in accordance with the own judgement.

        1. Denis Cooper
          July 10, 2012

          In the real world the best we can hope for is that some politicians propose and others oppose, and the latter do so effectively, and so the flaws in the proposals are exposed and hopefully corrected.

          That kind of adversarial system can work well enough but it does need something like equality of arms, and obviously that can’t be provided in a single chamber where members are elected by first past the post.

          Hence my suggested use of the second chamber to provide more effective opposition to the party with a majority in the first chamber.

    2. Mark
      July 9, 2012

      The Tories have not had a majority in the Lords since Blair chucked out the hereditaries (and possibly before). It’s no longer a consideration.

    3. lojolondon
      July 9, 2012

      Tony Blair agrees with you, Dennis, which is why he stuffed the HOL with anyone who donated to Labour and Gordon Brown stuffed the HOL with anyone he wanted in the Cabinet. Not much of a democracy, is it??

  22. RDM
    July 9, 2012

    [In my opinion]

    PR within the HoL is not necessary and is an attempt, by the Federalist/Nationalists, to align us to a Federal Europe. Nothing more!

    It would not improve Strategic thinking/questioning, and so, Law making.

    But, I the Stirling proposals would, and the HoL does need reform!



  23. Matthew
    July 9, 2012

    As with UKIP, the Lib Dems will never get anywhere with the first past the post system.

    With their failure to change convince the British public to adopt AV, Lord’s reform is their next hope.

    How many corporations, in the midst of a downturn start to fiddle with their memorandums and articles of association? Not many I’d wager.

    The Conservatives next electoral chances may be enhanced if the coalition ended and they proceeded as a minority government. It would free up a few ministerial positions for more talent too.

  24. Captain Crunch
    July 9, 2012

    Does pulling out of the coalition mean a General Election?

    The Lib Dems could either allow the Tories to be in a minority Govt (just supporting them on confidence motions) or form a coalition with Labour and the Nats. They would not need 51% of the MPs…just more than the other side?

    Or have I misunderstood?

    Reply: The Lib Dems cannot form a government with a majority other than with the Conservatives. The Conservatives could govern as a minority government until the other parties wanted an election and threatened a motion of no confidence. Mr Cameron rejected this idea when I and others proposed it in 2010.

    1. Captain Crunch
      July 9, 2012

      Thank you for responding.

      The Lib Dems could form a minority government with Labour though? I can’t see the SNP, SDLP, Plaid Cymru, Green and Respect MPs joining forces with the Tory party to stop that.

      No General Election would be needed. Just a visit to the Palace. That could happen…couldn’t it!?

  25. Leslie Singleton
    July 9, 2012

    Why in this electronic digital high-tech and God knows what age not simply ask the people what they want? Nobody would have invented politicians given the chance. First thing to do is (certainly in the case of the Lords) eschew a Yes/No overall referendum meaning that in about 10 seconds flat – I timed myself – one could come up with questions for voters to answer individually such as:

    1) Do you agree the Lords needs reforming?

    If Yes

    2) Do you agree with the hereditary principle?
    3) If No are you happy with appointment based on expertise?
    4) Or ex officio in a way to be decided?
    5) If you prefer elections should they be PR?
    6) How often should there be elections?
    7) Should they be co-incident with other elections?
    8) If so which?
    9) Should individual Lords be there for life?
    10) If No do you prefer 5 years or 15?
    11) Should the Lords have legislative or just revising powers?
    12) Are you happy to retain the present name?
    13) Should politicians be excluded?

    Any comment about being too complicated will be met by me with derision. More like too straightforward for partisan politicians to be able to handle plus I could say if anybody cannot handle the (non) complication he should not be allowed to vote in the first place.

    If basic questions like these have been asked in Opinion Polls I must be reading the wrong papers because I have no idea what the answers would be, besides it is presumably better to consult everyone as in a General Election.

    Just asking questions like these makes it clear that there is not the smallest consensus.

    I say again, armed with answers to questions like these, who cares what politicians think or want?

    1. Publius
      July 9, 2012

      You might like to add:

      14) If you don’t know what the hereditary principle is and why it may be a good alternative idea, then do not proceed to the other questions.
      15) What kind of experts do you think should appoint the experts? What does it take to recognise an expert from a non-expert?
      16) If you don’t understand ‘ex officio’ then do not proceed
      17) If you prefer PR, which of the many versions do you prefer and why?
      18) How do you define a politician? What happens if a ‘non-politican’ becomes political (however defined) after being appointed/elected/otherwise chosen?
      19) If you prefer election, would you be happy to also elect doctors/airline pilots/judges? Why or why not?
      20) In less than 10,000 words, describe what qualities are required in a good legislator.

    2. Leslie Singleton
      July 9, 2012

      Another few seconds easily produces other questions, for instance:

      1$) Is the present House of Lords the right size or too big or too small?
      19) Should there remain a religious element?
      20) If Yes, which religions?

      I’ll wager a lot of people sure that they want reform haven’t a clue about the answers to these and other questions.

  26. lojolondon
    July 9, 2012

    If the Tories give full support to the EU referendum, then UKIP voters will vote Tory. BUT it is too late for Cameron, we will never, ever believe him again, so the Tories need a new leader – a proper conservative. That is the only way for the Tories to win the next election.

    I find it refreshing that you say people who give too much money to political parties should not be in the Lords – that is diametrically opposed to the other parties’ (fundraising) strategy!

  27. cosmic
    July 9, 2012

    “There was wisdom in saying we would only proceed with Lords reform once there is a wide consensus on what reform is needed.”

    The objection to that is that that consensus is very difficult to achive and so reform is put off indefinitely.

    However, it’s no use tinkering with an unsatisfactory arrangement with no clear plan with provisions to combat its shortcomings, especially as the main objective of the tinkering appears to be to secure an advantage for the Lib Dems, disproportionate to their support.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      July 9, 2012

      If the politicians can not reach a wide consensus, why not give the Monarch the job?

      The Queen could appoint a committee chaired by Prince Charles with meetings broadcast live on the BBC (a beneficial side-effect would be to reduce the number of repeats). There could then be a vote by the electorate (referendum) (more BBC original broadcasting) and the politicians told the result, which they would have to enact.

  28. Hopper
    July 9, 2012

    Aware its trivia, that Mr R doesn’t usually condone but

    Just caught some of the “Daily Politics” anyone else find Lord Oakshott, really rally irritating?

    His line “House of Lords …Lots of deadbeats” “I shouldn’t be there” he declared… well I could agree on that.

    1. Jon
      July 9, 2012

      I heard him say that he shouldn’t be there – there’s an easy remedy then.

    2. lifelogic
      July 10, 2012

      Indeed Lord Oakshott is always making unwelcome appearances with his absurd views on everything. Why on earth for example does he want it not to be appointed but to retain unelected and by definition, irrationally prejudiced and irrational in general Bishops? The religious get a vote – why should they get extra representation if change is being made.

  29. Sir Richard Richard
    July 9, 2012

    Old news (courtesy of Peter Hitchens):

    And as I have predicted several times here before, a very clever tricks is about to be performed, in which the Coalition will split (a planned event, suiting Tories and Lib Dems alike as they jostle for position (and try to regain lost votes) at the 2014 Euro poll and the general election the following year) made to look like a genuine row) and the Tories will enter a minority government, noisily pursuing all kinds of patriotic, rigorous policies they’d never dare pursue if they had a majority.

    1. Bob
      July 9, 2012

      @Sir Richard Richard

      Ahh – the plot thickens!

    2. lifelogic
      July 10, 2012

      Indeed quite likely.

  30. NickW
    July 9, 2012

    Generally speaking, blackmailers are considered the scum of the criminal class. It comes as no surprise to find that blackmail is yet another well used technique in the Lib Dem armoury of dirty dealing in politics. It is important to understand that the blackmailer has no moral scruples whatever and is completely untrustworthy; they bleed their victim dry, without ever honouring their side of the arrangement..

    The very future of this country is dependent, not only on any constitutional changes being carefully considered before implementation, but also that those changes should have widespread support from both the electorate and politicians.

    Keeping the coalition on its political life support machine has a very low priority in contrast to our future survival as a successful functioning democracy.

    England expects Parliamentarians of all parties to do their duty, regardless of any blackmail threats from the Liberal Undemocrats. Throw this legislation out.

    1. uanime5
      July 9, 2012

      Actually paedophiles are considered the scum of the criminal class. People who kill their parents or children are also very low ranking. Blackmailers rank with minor criminals.

      Also what the Lib Dems are doing is called negotiation (at least it is when other parties do this).

      1. forthurst
        July 9, 2012

        asks personally abusive questions (ed)

      2. NickW
        July 10, 2012

        There is a difference between negotiation and blackmail which is actually fairly simple.

        Negotiation becomes blackmail when one party consistently breaks its side of the contract, having got what it wanted.

        The Lib Dems blackmailed Conservative MPs into voting for the referendum on AV using the threat of withdrawal of support for boundary changes.

        The Conservative MPs delivered their promise, the Lib Dems broke theirs, (Normal behaviour for Lib Dems), and are now using the same threat again.

        AS I said, the blackmailer has no moral scruples and never delivers their side of the bargain. No one should be in any doubt that Lib Dem MPs won’t honour their side of this new blackmail threat either.

        Lib Dems simply can’t be trusted.

        By anyone.

        1. lifelogic
          July 10, 2012

          “Lib Dems simply can’t be trusted”- other than to push more green policies, be pro EU, pro higher taxes, anti business and pro more government just wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong as usual.

        2. uanime5
          July 10, 2012

          Under English law (Theft Act 1968) here is the definition of blackmail.

          (1) A person is guilty of blackmail if, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces; and for this purpose a demand with menaces is unwarranted unless the person making it does so in the belief:

          (a) that he has reasonable grounds for making the demand; and
          (b) that the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand.

          The Lib Dems are within their rights to withdraw support for any bill they object to and these actions are also not considered menace under the Larceny Act 1916. Thus the Lib Dems are not blackmailing the Conservatives.

          Also given that the Conservatives broke their promise on AV by campaigning against it after they got what they wanted by your definition the Conservatives were blackmailing the Lib Dems.

  31. Bernard Juby
    July 9, 2012

    As a free marketeer I fully supported “classical liberalism” with a small c. The LibDems are now insufferable having got what they wanted and having it rejected by the public they now threaten to throw their toys out of the pram!
    Would they have so much power were they not in the Coalolition? Of course not!
    Let them threaten as much as they like and call their bluff!
    This Lords Reform is a dog’s breakfast. If it an’t broke don’t fix it until we know what is wrong with the present system and how, in the interests of the country – NOT just the LibDems – we should best fix it.

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    July 9, 2012

    The guillotine motion will be the key. If the government fails to impose a timetable they will open themselves to a filibuster. The filibuster mounted by Enoch Powell and Michael Foot in 1969 succeeded because the House of Commons was nowhere near unanimous in supporting the reforms proposed at the time, although the two front benches were. The same, I think, applies today; not everybody wants an elected second chamber.

    The Powell/Foot filibuster ended hilariously. Prime Minister Harold Wilson read out a prepared statement withdrawing the proposals. He gabbled through it at tremendous speed until Enoch bellowed out across the floor of the House “Eat them more slowly.” Then opposition leader Edward Heath complained “We have just been defeated by an alliance between a man who wants abolish the House of Lords and a man who wants to return it to the way it was in the fourteenth century.” For once, Heath was spot on.

    Does Mr Cameron really want a similar experience? Only the Labour Party can prevent it.

  33. Stephen O
    July 9, 2012

    This is contentious and being forced through as a result of political blackmail with little regard for the national interest and so very obviously the wrong way to go about constitutional reform.
    The House of Lords needs to be far less party political and have far more people who are experts drawn from a wide variety of fields. Some former ministers/ senior MPs should be included, but kept to a smallish minority.

  34. Alan Wheatley
    July 9, 2012

    As to a “use it or loose it rule” I do agree it is not a good thing to allow peers to flit in and out as it suites them – the whole business is far too serious for such a casual approach. However, such a rule should not be so coarse as to be counter-productive.

    Some peers become ennobled at a young, or relatively young age, and for them it may be they do not have the time, or inclination, to play an active part in the Lords. Later in life, with more time and experience their presence in the Lords could be very welcome.

    My proposal of self-declaration at the time of a general election for the period between elections avoids the “casuals” while allowing the talent in due time.

  35. David Saunders
    July 9, 2012

    Why should not people donate large sums to whichever cause they wish to support? Large donations should not be an axiomatic right to, say, a seat in the House of Lords but if someone with talent ( and money usually follows talent) is denied a seat because they have donated to a Party, this seems a perverse way to deny able and rich people from contributing to the national forum in the Upper House. Large sums should not ‘buy’ a Lords seat but it is a matter for the political Party concerned to make the judgement on who represents them in the Lords and to justify it.

  36. Alan Wheatley
    July 9, 2012

    An argument being advocated by those in favour of getting on with Lords Reform is that all parties said that is what they wish in their manifestos at the last general election – so as everyone voted for it there is no need for a referendum. What a cheek!

    The idea that a Party List system will be acceptable to voters seems to be counter to voters views in as much as we know what those views are. If the parties are placing a new burden on voters it would be polite and prudent to first ask voters what they think.

    Lords Reform has all the hallmarks of another move to centralise power.

  37. nicol sinclair
    July 9, 2012

    “Strains in the Coalition?”

    Yes, I suspect so. The Tories needed them but they have become a sword of Damocles/millstone round the necks of the Tories.

    Perhaps the time has come to cast them loose into the political tree-hugging wilderness?

    Perhaps the time has also come for the Tories to be REAL Tories and to ditch the present ‘Wets’?

    ‘Cast Iron Dave’ needs to step up to the traditional Tory plate or he and many of the rest of them will be out on their ears come 2015 (if not sooner).

    Get a grip… Put your mouths where they ought to be. Or, if not, mouths, that well known Greek philosopher’s – Testicles’s – were.

  38. Bob
    July 9, 2012

    Being a Lord isn’t what it used to be.

  39. peter davies
    July 9, 2012

    What is it with the Lib Dems? On one hand they would have long ago signed away UK sovereignty to the EU thus locking us into a currency and laws making us ruled by the EU making UK parliamentary institutions obsolete .

    On the other hand they want to ‘improve democracy’ by having another layer of elections. This is one issue which should be kicked into the long grass until someone can say what is wrong with the current system and what could be done to improve.

    I certainly agree we need to avoid people ‘buying their way into the Lords – are you reading this Mr Blair? but we need to avoid turning this into another elected house that hardly anyone bothers to vote on.

    I fear this could take too much parliamentary energy which would be better put sorting out domestic issues and the EU

  40. Chris
    July 9, 2012

    Do these 9 regions for the House of Lords reform happen to coincide with the regions designated by the EU?

  41. Barbara Stevens
    July 9, 2012

    Well Mr R, you may call it threats from the Lib Dems, I’d call it blackmail. From a party who came third in the general election and without a real base for optimism now. Call their bluff.
    They are far above the status for my liking, in fact I find their behaviour sickening. I just hope the Conservatives keep their voice of steel and vote accordingly. You now will need to keep together on this and vote it into the wind so we can see it float away.
    The House of Lords would be better off making all retire at 75, they could still sit and vote in the House but at their own expense and not on the taxpayer. Having an elected H of L would change it’s meaning, and how it works, once old politicans see the chance to exercise influence again it will fail. Freedom from political parties gives more freedom of choice and freedom on mind, and the outcome is for the better.
    Reduction in numbers is vital, there are far to many, and this is because of political influence over the past years, indeed, the making of peers is one that should be looked at. Just because they may have served in the Commons does not mean they should have a seat in the Lords, we should be more selective. I propose a Lords committee to do that, and members get in on merit and service to the state, with the Queen having a say on that. There we have a good heart and mind to call on.
    Finally, do retire them at 75 the thought of some of them sitting for 15 years, makes my blood boil, far to long.

  42. Electro-Kevin
    July 9, 2012

    Lords reform.

    Gay marriage.


    With all our woes. Truly they inhabit another planet.

  43. uanime5
    July 9, 2012

    Given that the Conservatives actively campaigned against the AV referendum I wouldn’t say they delivered on their promise. If anything they did all they could to undermine their promise.

    Due to the Parliament Act if the Lords reject the House of Lords reform it can be forced through next year; so it will be interesting to see whether the Lords will try to amend this bill or try to kill it in the hope that the Coalition will have collapsed by next year.

    Reply: The Conservative promise was to vote for a referendum in the Commons so it became law. We delivered. We always said we would be against the proposal in the referendum!

    1. Lindsay McDougall
      July 9, 2012

      It would be nice if somebody actually considered the MERITS of House of Lords reform as opposed to who has promised what to whom. How could an elected second chamber possibly NOT come into conflict with the Commons? You have only to look across the pond to see the stand off between the White House and the House of Representatives, which has resulted in the US fiscal deficit not being dealt with. If Mitt Romney is elected, this will be replaced by deadlock between the White House and the Senate. Do we really need something similar?

      1. uanime5
        July 10, 2012

        If would be nice if someone realised that the purpose of the second chamber is to come into conflict with the other chamber. This is to prevent one chamber becoming too powerful.

        Why do you think Americans keep voting for Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House? It’s too prevent one party passing their policies without any opposition.

        1. Lindsay McDougall
          July 11, 2012

          No thank you.

  44. Caterpillar
    July 9, 2012

    Rather than immediate reform of the HoL, I would prefer a more orderly and where necessary parallel approach, e.g.,

    (1) Shrink the size of the state (in % of GDP and laws&regs).
    (2) Treat England, Northern Ireland and Wales equitably (and Scotland if it doesn’t float)
    (3) Clarify the relationship with EU asap not asa’Dave’says so.
    (4) Consider the HoC and HoL together. As I’ve posted before I would prefer an MMP HoC allowing constituency representation but encouraging the need to win the debate (as the HoL does now). Consider coupling an MMP HoC with a FPTP HoL.

    (Oh yeh, and while all this going on let’s not forget that the Chancellor has continued to permit the BoE to run an experimental and ineffectual monetary policy.)

  45. Matthew
    July 9, 2012

    How can you possibly have a referendum to apply an AV voting system to elect MP’s to the Commons and lose that referendum.

    – Then within 12 months attempt to both transform the Lords and impose a PR voting system on that house – without a referendum?

    It’s a total mickey take!

  46. Leslie Singleton
    July 10, 2012

    Just read the Manifesto and it is a straightforward lie that there was a commitment to do anything other than seek a consensus which very clearly they have not found. The Coalition Agreement talks about a Committee and the same recommends a Referendum which is not being given. This is disgusting in the extreme but what else should one expect from politicians? Words no longer have meaning.

    1. Denis Cooper
      July 10, 2012

      The Coalition Agreement also talks about a bill, and this is it.

      “The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers.”

      1. Denis Cooper
        July 10, 2012

        And it doesn’t say anything about putting it to a referendum.

      2. Denis Cooper
        July 10, 2012

        I now have to say that the Cabinet Office version omits the word “bill”.

  47. Vanessa
    July 10, 2012

    “…..walk away from the coalition” Don’t make me laugh ! To bring about a general election now would see the LibDims consigned to history for a very very long time and they know it. You should have to strength of your convictions and call their bluff. They would come running after you with all sorts of apologies for being so stupid. They love being in government and will not give it up on such a tiny issue as a disagreement – mark my words. Human nature and hubris !!

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