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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lords reform is constitutional priority

Nick Clegg's speech yesterday appears to have achieved its objective of setting out the Liberal Democrat agenda in government for 2012. In particular the commitment to using the Parliament Acts to force through Lords reform is welcome and will hopefully ensure that those turkeys in the upper house realise that they have no choice, Christmas is coming whether they like it or not.

Today's Independent sets out some of the key points in the speech:

Unelected peers were one of a string of unaccountable vested interests in the banks, business, politics and the media at which the DPM took aim, in a clear attempt to establish a distinct identity for his Liberal Democrats at a testing time for the coalition.

He warned the City of London, on the eve of bonus season, that the Government was ready to block any "irresponsible" payments in partly state-owned banks RBS and Lloyds.

And he said he will unveil reforms in the New Year designed to "rewire the power relations in our economy" and build "responsible capitalism" by giving shareholders more power in the boardroom and workers a greater stake in their companies.

Hailing the liberal idea of the "open society", he promised to "promote fairness, liberalism and openness" against "the forces of reaction and retreat" that threaten to take hold of the country at a time of economic uncertainty.

It is a good start, whether it amounts to a narrative or not only time will tell.
Surely the most urgent issues facing the Government today are the economy, an under-performing education system and the health service. Why would any sane minister take his or her eye off those problems to worry about esoteric constitutional issues?
Because unlike the indefensible, unrealistice, unachieveable and disastrous issue of independence this constitutional issue is not esoteric but central to openness, accountability and better governance.
To have an unelected upper house is undemocratic on its face. The unelected members don't have to face an electorate. Kenneth Clarke (current Lord Chancellor) has also argued for reform of the House of Lords to make it democratic. So there are politicians in the Conservative Party that also feel the same way. cw
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