Cynical and opportunist opposition on the House of Lords…
It is these two words that sprung immediately into my mind when reading Sadiq Khan’s unfortunate comments on the upcoming battle royale over the future of the House of Lords. On the surface, Khan’s comments seem nice and democracy-friendly; consult the people first, but that only lasts as long as you forget that Labour was given a mandate to introduce a fully-elected second chamber a full 15 years ago. It actually was actually a key plank of the 1997 manifesto – one of those famous promises that was never quite fulfilled. I really am not sure how many times Khan thinks we need to actually ask the people, probably until they are bored enough to tears and reject the idea totally in an anemically low turnout referendum.
Not content with this, Khan then decided the prudent thing would be to insult peoples intelligence;
We held a referendum to decide a new voting system for the Commons, the first chamber, and the British people would not understand why we were not having a referendum for the second chamber if it is to be elected by a new proportional voting system, as is proposed.
I suspect people understand alot more than you give them credit for, Mr Khan. Khan is hoping to kill the bill by bogging it down with the referendum requirement, this is because neither Labour, nor any other political party has much interest in getting rid of the House of Lords. After-all where else can we send those big money donors that will make them feel quite as valued.? This and Khan’s opportunist desire to make mischief for the government by jumping in the sandbox with the Conservative right make his comments utterly shameful. However, the governments proposals are far from perfect, Khan is right about that;the notion that 15 year tersms should be the norm for ‘Senator’s is absurd. Any term of office which can encompass a new-born barbies journey to the cusp of adolescence is far too long.
I am partial to the argument there is no need for a second chamber at all but the constitutional problems of the United Kingdom suggest that a ‘Senate’ may have a place as a unifying branch of the legislature. Also, we have to bear in mind that recently the Lords have shown themselves to be a deal-more in touch than the heavily whipped and very tightly controlled Commons. In a reformed second chamber I would like to see the formal exclusion of any kind of permissible whipping system to allow ‘Senators’ the freedom to think for themselves and scrutinise effectively.
Ultimately, that the abolition of the unelected second chamber and its replacement will scratch the surface of the many democratic deficits inherent within the British state. However, regardless, it represents a clear step in the right direction. It is therefore saddening to see Labour being an obstructionist rather than constructive opposition in this case. Saddening but instructive you feel in Labour’s complete lack of understanding when it comes to delivering greater democracy to the British people.