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Friday, February 10, 2017

Why the Lords should ignore empty threats and stand up for what is right

One of the more bizarre outcomes of this week's Brexit vote in the House of Commons is the number of Tory MPs lining up to threaten the existence of the House of Lords, despite their previous diehard defence of the second chamber in the face of many attempts to reform it.

The sort of reforms that democrats have been arguing for over decades have suddenly become attractive to the Tories, not out of principle but because they may not get their way. Their previous championing of this bastion of privilege and patronage has come back to bite them.

Thus in the Independent, we get Oliver Letwin throwing his toys out of that pram, arguing that MPs should consider abolition or “full-scale reform” of the unelected upper chamber if it votes to delay the Brexit bill beyond the end of next month.

And then there is the BBC reporting an anonymous Government source, who goes further by saying: “If the Lords don't want to face an overwhelming public call to be abolished they must get on and protect democracy and pass this bill.”

Nick Clegg must be sporting a wry smile at the Tories change of heart, after attempts he made to reform the institution by making it more accountable and democratic were foiled by backwoods Tory MPs and Labour shenanigans.

The Tories made their bed when they foiled Nick Clegg's reforms and now they are going to have to live with the consequences. But if the Lords, in doing their job of revising inadequate and partisan legislation, ends up being reformed then that would be welcome.

The motives may well be selfish and wrong-headed but the outcome would be to all our benefit.
Did you note the hypocrisy in that many of those Conservatives who opposed Lords Reform ("I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say, 'I did not forsake the British constitution. I said no.' The House of Lords is unique because Britain is unique, and we should celebrate that fact, not try to change it. If MPs are not going to protect Parliament, who is?") are in the forefront of those who now want to abolish it if it does not, for once, follow a Tory line?

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