Wednesday, March 17, 2010

House of Lords reform (part 37 of 94)

Just too late to make any difference, Jack Straw finally lets slip that he has a plan for reform of the Second Chamber. Because, let's be honest, thirteen years is barely long enough to even scratch the surface of getting rid of an unelected legislature and replace it with one that is fit for the third millennium.

Best of all, it is all being done by leak. There will be just 300 seats in the new House, provisionally called a Senate. Salaries will be less than that for those in the Commons (will that be renamed too?). It will be elected on a proportional basis, in thirds. Existing members will be bribed given an incentive to retire.

So far, so good(ish). If only there weren't less than two months before a General Election, and nowhere near enough time to ram the legislation through a reasonably pliant House of Commons. Even if there were, one can assume that the Lords would want a good, hard look at any legislation before signing its own death warrant.

One must therefore assume that this is a cynical attempt to peel off a few voters who consider constitutional reform to be important. The catch is that we've all been here before. The Jenkins Commission which led to precisely zip, nada, nothing, was the point where it became clear that the only power that Labour were willing to 'give away' was going to go to people who they could trust, i.e. other Labour politicians in Scotland, Wales and London.

And, like Gordon Brown's Damascene conversion to the cause of electoral reform, talk of enhancing our democracy is just so much window dressing. For let's be truthful here, even the Conservatives are more truthful on the subject than Labour are.

So, if you really want fairer votes, localism and a Bill of Rights that you can rely upon, one that doesn't rely on a Government that graciously allows you to have it, you know where to go. And with that, 'Liberal Bureaucracy' endorses the Liberal Democrats (alright, no great surprise, but I thought that I ought to do it anyway...).

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