The House of Lords took an action on Monday to deliberately frustrate a decision by the democratically elected government. A politically motivated move brought about by the over representation of political parties in this arena which is now unrepresentative of the general election result and the will of the people. In effect, the second chamber has moved from being a revising chamber to one of political opposition to the elected government.
Perhaps the government should put forward a motion to set-aside the decision of the Lords on this matter and just move on?
The amendment tabled by Baroness Hollis received support pretty well along the lines of the prevailing political ideology with the tax and spend parties outnumbering the Conservatives. This approach changes forever the conventions and the connotations of the ‘upper’ part of the Upper House because the opposition parties simply took an opportunity to score political points and by doing so usurped a long standing convention. When politically motivated appointees choose to overturn a democratically elected government something has to give.
The issue itself (tax credits) was simply the vehicle by which this opposition dominated forum felt the need to flex its muscles. The debate was, as usual, comprehensive and informative but they may as well not have bothered because this was a party vote along party lines and has little to do with working people. After all what on earth would these people know about ordinary working people, low paid employment or financial struggles? As a result the mantra of turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind.
One amendment was an overwhelmingly politically motivated action led by the Liberal Democrats who are positively salivating that the artificial creation of such a constitutional crises will eventually lead to a reform of the HOL which, they persistently remind us, is what they wanted all along, except it isn’t, or at least probably won’t be. To remind ourselves, the Liberal Democrats spend most of their efforts in attempts to change the system so that they would benefit electorally. The British people saw right through that which is why their party was demolished in the general election but that, it seems, won’t stop them from using their 112 peers (only 2.4 million votes, UKIP 2 peers 3.8 million votes) to force an issue they believe will eventually go their way.
It seems that, in part at least, this was about meeting Liberal Democrat aspirations, extracting some revenge and like Labour, little to do with tax credits. After all it wasn’t all that long ago when they were in government and cutting welfare at a time when they were forced to address the reality of excessive public spending.
Added to that the support of some crossbenchers and Labour peers, using the issue to manufacture outrage and thereby declare to everyone that they are more caring and concerned about the ‘working poor’ than anyone else and pretend that this is all about current fairness whilst conveniently forgetting that our descendants will still be paying of our massive debt in 100 years time. Fair to whom, one might ask?
Leaving the poorly understood issue of tax credits and their likely effect on society aside in this article what should happen to the HOL?
It’s easy to understand why Prime Ministers, both Labour and Conservative, like the current system and why protest parties like the Liberal Democrats don’t. It is the epitome of patronage, affording the patron enormous power and influence. Becoming a peer of the realm is, by any standards, a huge elevation of one’s status and is highly desired, hence there will always be a demand for that honour and there are many prepared to ‘buy’ it with significant donations to the patron’s party.
In England, of course, we play a game and pretend that peerages are awarded to fine upstanding people without fear or favour. However the more money one donates significantly enhances one’s potential in this area but the official line continues to pretend that it isn’t a factor. Clapped out (and competent) politicians of all persuasions expect this lifelong perk as a matter of course and even those who have argued against the principle of unelected legislators their entire political lives are minded to accept when it’s their turn, so the bribe is clearly substantial. There are a few other fortunate groups that ‘receive the call’ plus a token presence of ‘ordinary people’ who often turn out to be far from that description by simply representing another, slightly different, dimension of patronage. And of course there are the 25 bishops.
So the argument and inaction about Lords reform has simply gone on, yet each year the member’s roll call rises as new patronages are awarded and debts finally repaid. With a membership currently standing at 816 and the Conservatives with only 249 of these there is clearly an opportunity for mischief if their lordships fail to control themselves but right now their naked ‘un-electedness’ has taken a back seat as there are scores to settle and why not, as its only the country’s finances that are at stake? Labour and the Liberal Democrats were trounced in the general election but it is of insufficient concern to them as they seek to oppose in place of a very confused Labour party in the commons.
Part 2 tomorrow.