Showing posts with label House of Lords. Show all posts
Showing posts with label House of Lords. Show all posts

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Labour - the new Thatcherite Republican Party

It has surely been a mind boggling 24 hours for Members of the House of Lords.

Their mamouth all-night sitting came to an end earlier today after almost 21 hours. This isn't the longest sitting in its history but it certainly gave the Prevention of Terrorism Bill debate that ran from 11am until 7.31pm between 10-11 March 2005, a run for its money. It is also likely to be the first of a number of all-night sitting over the coming days and weeks so that record may go yet.

Why? Well, Labour are adament that they will destroy the Coaltion Government's Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill which needs to be passed by mid-February for the AV Referendum to go ahead as planned on May 5th.

Filibustering - American Style
Labour have talked and talked and talked. They will of course argue that their cause is legitimate but the reality is that they're looking to deliberatley cause trouble for the sake of it. They argue that the Bill is 'political'. Well, bringing in AV which is Labour Party policy and which is supported by their own leader certainly shouldn't rankle. As far as the equalisation of constituencies is concerned, making every vote as equal in weight as possible as the next one is a laudable objective. If that so happens to mean that a number of overly populated Labour seats of old will need to be revised, then so be it.

If anyone is 'playing politics' here then it's the increasingly infantile Labour Parliamentary Party.

Their West Wing style filibuserting efforts of trying to talk the bill to death will not be successful. The Coaltion Government are united in its resolve to conclude this business on time and I am confident that they will.

No, No, No - Are Labour the new Thatcherites?!
It was Labour's great nemesis Margaret Thatcher who famously exclaimed 'No, No, No' in the House of Commons as her Prime Ministership came towards its end. Yet, now ironically, it's the Labour Party themselves that are sounding more militantly Thatcherite in their negativity than ever before.

Not only Thatcherite, but also like her beloved Ronald Reagan's own Republican Party.

Since 2008, I have witnessed with growing incredulity the American Republican Party's complete and utter obstinance against the democratically elected Democratic Congress' political wishes. You can disagree with decisions made but do so in a pro-active manner. Heckling and shouting for the sake of it without giving a viable alternative is irresponsible opposition. Sadly, the Democrats undeservedly lost control of the Lower House of Congress last November and the Republicans now have a foot back in the door.

Now we see the Labour Party here talk and act with the same vitriolic sentiment. Since the election last May they have been quick enough to damn any initiatives that the Coalition Government have put forward. On the biggest single issue, the economy, they have not put up any detailed alternative to the Coalition's spending cuts. But then how could they when Ed Miliband has a 'blank piece of paper'.

Indeed, one of the most illluminating blog posts that I've read in a long time was on this very point and was published yesterday by The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant. I really encourage readers here to read it as it makes the point that Ed Miliband can't differentiate between the deficit and the debt (two very different things) and also adds that Labour wasted an opportunity to fix the roof whilst the sun was shining a decade ago.

A travesty to British Democracy
This sour-grapes rubbishing of anything coalitionist is now this week being witnessed with this House of Lords fiasco. What kind of democracy do we live in that can see such ridiculous scenes as we have witnessed these past 24 hours? On that point, what type of political party would stoop to such levels? Well, the Labour Party, clearly.

As Party President Tim Farron stated in an e-mail to members earlier today: "I’m all in favour of proper debate but Labour is cynically using the old politics of the worst sort to stop people have their say. Labour peers claim to be offering scrutiny, but that argument vanishes as soon as you examine their behaviour in the debate".

It's even more unbelievable as it's Labour who claim the credit for (semi) reforming the House of Lords in the first place. To be more blunt, it's their cack-handedness that allowed it to remain in a semi-reformed stated for this past decade. Like with other Labour messes that were left behind last May, it's been up to the Coaltion Government to try and put things right.

So there will soon hopefully be progress made by Nick Clegg to bring a final solution to the House of Lords fiasco. But until then, we must watch another as the Labour Party do all that they can to stick two fingers up to the coalition.

It's a real farce - this incident over the past 24 hours and Labour's more general unwillingness to be in any way a reasonable and responsible opposition.

But Labour shouldn't fear for I'm sure there are two emminent politicians who would be proud of their negative and oppositionist 'achievements' - step forward Sarah Palin and Margaret Thatcher.

Friday, 19 November 2010

It shouldn't be Nick Clegg's Choice

We heard this morning from No.10 Downing St of the list of 54 new Peerages to the House of Lords. Of these, 43 are Coalition Peers (27 for the Conservatives, 15 for the Liberal Democrats and 1 Cross-bencher), 10 are Labour Peers and 1 from Plaid Cymru.

I'm particularly pleased to see that out-going Welsh Assembly Member Jenny Randerson AM (a former Culture Minister in the 2000-2003 Labour/Liberal Democrat Welsh Assembly Coalition) is to be made a Baroness. Her expertise and experience will be invaulable in the Upper House. It's also good to see that Sal Brinton, Susan Kramer and Nicol Stephen are also being elevated.

Patronage Gone Wrong
Jenny, Sal, Susan and Nicol I believe, deserve their new 'calling'. They have been active in their communities for years and have a role to play in the House of Lords.

But not all peerages are given on such meritocrious (is that a proper word?!) grounds. From this current list, there are a number who have been significant donors to their parties. Robert Edmiston and Stanley Fink for example, have been prominent Conservative donors whilst Sir Gulam Noon was likewise for the Labour Party and had been previously nominated by Tony Blair for a Peerage.

This is where the system is fundamentally flawed. For as long as party political leaders have the ability to choose who should be elevated to the House of Lords and have this power of patronage, there will always be scope for abuse. Why should party donors be given a Peerage? It's crass and quite simply, wrong. Donors should want to give support to political parties not on the basis of what they individually can get out of it. Donate to help the party grow becuase you believe in their cause? Yes. Donate because you want leverage on the leadership to give you something that is within their power to give? No.

An Elected House of Lords
This is why we need to crack on and finally complete that long-running saga - House of Lords reform.

Whilst I'm pleased that a number of worthy people as well as those that I have named above, have received Peerages today, including Dame Joan Bakewell for Labour, Dafydd Wigley from Plaid Cymru and Sir Richard Dannatt from the Conservatives (but will sit as a Cross-bencher), I believe that it is giving too much power of patronage to too few people to allow the current situation to continue.

The likes of Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron should not have this ability. Members of the House of Lords should, on the whole, be elected. They should get there with a democratic mandate.

A Wholly Elected Second Chamber?
Having said that, I stand, possibly in opposition to many of my friends in the Liberal Democrats, against the concept of having a 100% wholly elected second chamber. I think an overwhelming majority does need to be elected (somewhere within the region of 75%-90%) but that the remainder be selected and appointed by an independent panel to sit in the Lords on a term-by-term basis to fill any 'needs-based' gaps that may not be covered by the elected members.

For a wholly elected chamber will mirror too closely the House of Commons but will not guarantee that the relevant and required experience and expertise is there to scrutinise the executive's legislation.

So for example, if a Jenny Randerson didn't want to stand again for election but the independent panel believed that her expertise was required in the Upper Chamber, then they could propose a Peerage for her to fill that 'needs-based' gap.

Whether such a solution or a wholly elected alternative was taken forward by the Coalition Government, it would be a darn sight better than this unsatisfactory situation that we currently have to live with.

Take the patronage out and put some common sense democracy in.