House of Lords ‘reform’ (not)

It seems increasingly clear that the government’s White Paper proposals for reforming’ the House of Lords are – well, stone dead, dead as the proverbial parrot, deceased, defunct: they are the government’s late proposals. Official hints abound of willingness to compromise on an elected element somewhat bigger than the government’s hilarious opening bid (20 per cent): there’s speculation that they might go up to thirty, conceivably even forty per cent—anything so long as it’s less than fifty. The hundreds of MPs and members of the present House of Lords, of all parties, who are demanding a hundred per cent elected second chamber, or failing that an absolute minimum of 80 per cent, will need steady nerves and strong stomachs to hold out against these weasel offers of ‘compromise’.  In case they will not be moved, another scenario is now being prepared as a neat fall-back position for the leadership.  It has been broadly hinted at by Mr Blair, and repeated this morning on the Frost programme by Charles Clarke, the unelected and constitution-free Chair of the Labour Party, and it runs roughly as follows: "There are as many opinions about how many members of the second chamber should be elected as there are members of parliament, so the chances of reaching a broad consensus are negligible."  In the absence of consensus, it’s plainly implied, the only sensible course is to leave matters as they are—a wholly appointed chamber, still with its hereditary element, its bishops and judges, and the legions of life peers of whom hundreds owe their seats in the national parliament to their nomination by Tony Blair or William Hague (plus a few who actually nominated themselves). So much for modernisation.

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