Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

This site is currently down for maintenance and should be back soon.

Coming Soon To A Parliament Near You: The Slow Motion Horror Movie Of Lords Reform

Last Updated: Friday, February 24th, 2012

In a parallel universe, the Government’s plans for the coming new Parliamentary session would be considered in a disinterested way – entirely on the merits of the proposals themselves.

For better or worse, this is not the world that David Cameron and Nick Clegg inhabit.  And no single item of Coalition business is more likely to prove this true than the latter’s plans for Lords reform.

We do not yet know the final shape of those proposals, but can be certain that they will propose in a bill the election of some members of the second chamber by some electoral system other than first past the post.

The following considerations will therefore come into play:

* Conservative backbenchers will not want to allow Clegg to gain electoral reform through the back door now that the voters slammed the front door in his face – in other words, voted overwhelmingly against AV in last year’s referendum.

* Liberal Democrat backbenchers will not want to see their wish for such change to be stymied by the Tories for the second time (as they see it).  If Lords reform is snarled up or watered down a significant proportion of them may vote against reducing the size of the Commons in 2013 by way of revenge.

* Ed Miliband could try to prise the Coalition apart by backing the Liberal Democrats and thus help a Lords reform bill get through the Commons.  However, the temptation to gang up with Tory rebels to attempt to defeat the Government may be irresistible.

* There is no Government majority in the Lords.  But even were there one the second chamber wouldn’t simply nod through its own abolition or transformation.  Liberal Democrat peers themselves are broadly against a part or wholly elected second chamber.  If that’s the view of Clegg’s own party wait until the others – plus the crossbenchers – start probing the detail of a bill.

* The Government risks defeat in the Commons perhaps not on the principle of a bill but on major votes when its committee stage is reached.

* It also risks gridlock in the Lords as the revolt over a reform bill spreads to other pieces of legislation.

* It further risks a backlash as major media outlets ask why so much energy is being spent on such a bill.

* And Cameron risks angering both his backbenchers and the Liberal Democrats – thus perhaps losing the Commons seat reduction which his party needs to help win a majority at the next election.

The great wartime radio series ITMA boasted a character called Mona Lott whose catchphrase was: “It’s being so cheerful that keeps me going.” I don’t want to turn into the Mona Lott of this newsletter, but it is hard to see this story of Lords Reform ending well.

Essentially, no-one really wants it very much – except Nick Clegg and his party in the Commons.  No wonder it was reported today that Viscount Astor, the Prime Minister’s father-in-law, has a plan to force a watered-down measure through the Lords.

His gambit is apparently to elect only fifth of the Upper House first-time round – thus making Lords opposition to the proposal seem unreasonable, and getting public opinion on Cameron’s side if he uses the Parliament Act to force a bill through.

A joint Commons-Lords committee is due to report on Clegg’s plans soon.  A bill of some kind will surely follow in the new session.  This looks like the slow motion horror movie of the new session – and it is coming soon to a Parliament near you. 

By Paul Goodman 



Mark Menzies MP on Comment: In defence of the Union – a cause for common concern.  “Of course, Members with English, Welsh and Northern Irish seats have a primary obligation to represent their constituents. But to represent their constituents effectively they must also defend our constitution. Scottish independence would have significant consequences for the rest of the UK. Not least of these would be the end of the United Kingdom as a nation state: Alex Salmond may say that Scotland would retain the monarchy, at least for a while, but Scotland and England would become no more united a kingdom than England and Australia. Read More:

Tim Montgomerie: We need shock-and-awe tax cuts in the budget, financed by a mix of wealth taxes and spending cuts.  “I guess that financing tax cuts by deeper spending cuts won’t be controversial among ConHome readers. Yesterday Paul Goodman called for a “Lower Spending Commission” to investigate ways of delivering a smaller state more quickly. On Comment today Lord Flight says faster cuts in spending are essential…More controversial among ConHome readers will be my belief that we should increase wealth taxes too so that we can reach towards a pot of £25 billion for cuts in income and other more economically-harmful taxes.” Read More:

Paul Goodman:  We need to think less about raising tax and more about cutting spending. Let’s have a Lower Spending Commission.  “A Commission on Affordable Spending a body would look at Britain’s long-term spending challenges and how to tackle them.  On the political side it could include, for example, Lords Lawson and Lamont, senior former Labour politicians such as Alan Milburn and James Purnell, Andrew Tyrie (if membership was judged compatible with his role as Treasury Select Committee Chairman), Frank Field and David Laws.  It would make recommendations to which the Government would respond.” Read More:

Martin Callanan MEP: How I invented “The Grexit”.  “The press release went out as I sat down… and the phone immediately started ringing in my office. Before I was back at my desk the speech was running on the Press Association wire and had been highlighted on this worthy website and others. A round of ‘down the line” TV and radio interviews followed – and a frantic day ended with a live spot on Newsnight about a subject which by now had its very own newsy nickname – The “Grexit”.” Read more:

Bruce Anderson: The Second World War was the key to the history of the EU and it still is.  “The reality is that Britain has never really joined Europe. It is true that we signed up to all sorts of stuff, but we did not mean half of it and we did not understand the other half. As Jacques Delors said a few years ago – the wisest comment ever from a Eurocrat – the British are allergic to Europe. Eventually, on the other side of the present crisis – if there is another side – we will have to renegotiate a limited but sustainable membership of some European entity “A common market” will do as the working title. In the meantime, the crisis continues, oscillating between farce and tragedy.” Read More:

Nadine Dorries MP: Liberal Democrat MPs want to have their Coalition cake and eat it.  “Call me old fashioned, but I was rather hoping for a Conservative majority next time. Allowing the Liberal Democrats to have an unfair competitive advantage against our own candidates at the next election doesn’t seem to be a clever way to go about it. Unless of course, the Prime Minister’s long term plan really is to keep working in coalition. He possibly feels he can manage the double standards of expectations from MPs in both parties. If that’s the case, he may find a turbine blows him a fair wind which will bring him ill luck.” Read More:

J P Floru: The Falklands are small fry compared to Antarctica.  “Occasionally diplomats try to reach some sort of agreement about the exploitation of Antarctica. Sadly a free market and workable system does not seem to be at the top of their mind. In 1988 a Convention to the Treaty attempted to allow for mining, but is was never ratified. It would have established an eye-wateringly complicated bureaucracy and a quasi-communist proceeds distribution system similar to the unworkable International Seabed Authority. Until a new Treaty is signed, extracting Antarctica’s mineral treasure remains unlawful. Britain has the oldest claim on Antarctica and must stand by it and defend it. Exposing Argentina’s breach of international law should be Government Policy.” Read more:

From the Conservative Intelligence member's site

Miliband’s Threat To Outside Earnings May Drive Tory Mps Over The Edge

Conservative MPs are capable of a wide range of emotions, encompassing the normal human set and then a few extras thrown in. Pride, injured pride, confidence, optimism, crushing depression, panic, fury, resentment, contentment, ambition, resignation, triumph and a host of others are within their repertoire. Even at the best of times, a healthy parliamentary party […]

Cameron Woos Mrs Rochester

“There’s no stunts or backroom deals, just a strong local candidate you can trust.” So wrote David Cameron in a letter sent this week to every voter in Rochester and Strood, where the next UKIP-engineered by-election is to take place towards the end of November.  At the end of it, he made the point again […]

To Respond To Defeat In Clacton, The Tories Will Need A Tougher Immigration Policy

Everyone expected the UKIP candidate, Douglas Carswell, to win in Clacton, but few people thought he would win by the enormous margin of 12,404 votes. An exceptionally rude kick has been administered to David Cameron. It is not much consolation for the Conservatives that a scarcely less rude kick has been administered to Ed Miliband […]

The Tories Leave Birmingham With A New-Found Confidence

No-one knew quite what to expect when the Conservative family gathered in Birmingham on Sunday. Mark Reckless had just delivered the second UKIP defection blow in as many months, and Brooks Newmark’s indiscretions were causing embarrassment (though less existential questions for the party). If anything, observers might have expected a depressed conference mood. Instead, though, […]

21 People To Watch As Next Week’s Conservative Conference Looms

1. Those two MP defectors to UKIP – if, of course, they exist at all.  If so, they will presumably turn up on Saturday evening.  If they don’t, the media will treat this as a further sign that the Party isn’t grown-up, since it talked but didn’t deliver.   2. George Osborne. The Conservative election […]

Will Cameron Go Fast And Slow On Devolution All-Around?

The Prime Minister announced this morning that more devolution for Scotland and reform elsewhere – specifically, action on English votes for English laws – will take place “in tandem” and “at the same pace”.  Draft legislation will be “published by January”. His statement opens up two possible outcomes. The first is that he pushes for […]

Whatever The Result, The Scottish Referendum Has Killed Blair’s Devolution Settlement

The Scottish referendum result is up in the air – polls swing from No to Yes and back again, all within the margin of error. The rush from Westminster to Scotland, not only of the party leaders but of scores of Labour MPs, demonstrates how seriously the prospect of a Yes result is being taken. […]

Two Conservative Scenarios If Scotland Votes Yes

Scenario One: David Cameron does not resign as Prime Minister (or as Conservative leader).  Nor does any member of the Cabinet other than Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary.  The Coalition hangs together.  The Conservative Parliamentary Party rallies round its leader. UKIP’s attempt to provoke an English nationalist backlash comes to nothing.  Perhaps unexpectedly, […]

Cameron’s Ability To Neutralise Opponents Is Brilliantly Illustrated By His Handling Of The New Surveillance Law

David Cameron will always do what the Establishment considers to be prudent.  The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, sprung upon the Cabinet on Thursday morning, is a case in point. Cameron has been told by the security services that these powers are needed. He has therefore set out to square Nick Clegg and Ed […]

Why Critical Headlines About Donor Dinners Raise A Smile In Downing Street

In politics, as with so many things, it’s tempting to judge a book by its cover. The personalities, the catchphrases, the emotional and cultural baggage carried by politicians and parties all compete for our attention. They’re important, of course, but they’re only one part of the political process. The showbiz elements often distract people from […]