Monday, 25 June 2012

House of Lords or Hunt?

Tufton Bufton Tories are threatening to break the coalition agreement and vote against the House of Lords reform bill.  Their feeble excuse is retaliation for the Liberal Democrats' refusal to support David Cameron's failure to refer Jeremy Hunt to the proper authorities to pronounce on his suitability for making an impartial decision on the Murdoch case, given his proven chummy links with Murdoch and all his works.

Whilst those in the Westminster bubble and a few anoraks outside it salivate on the minutiae of the evidence given to the Leveson enquiry I suspect the rest of us have already come to the common  sense views that:

  • Rupert Murdoch   owns far too much of the British media
  • both Labour and Conservative leaders  have cravenly pandered to him  in order to gain the support of his organs
  • the Liberal Democrats haven't, but probably because Murdoch took the view that we  hadn't much to offer in return anyway.
Although it is right that every nook and cranny of the situation should be explored with judicial thoroughness, and this should continue - democracy should be fair - most of us would probably already agree with the common sense solutions that:

  • no-one should be allowed to own more that a minority percentage of the UK's media -say 10% or 15%
  • such owners should pay their fair whack of British taxes
  • there is a strong case for saying that they should also be British citizens, or at least resident in Britain.
It is also fairly clear that no minister is capable of playing a "quasi-judicial" role impartially:  that includes Vince Cable as well as Jeremy Hunt.  Maybe judges aren't capable either, but at least they are trained to do it.  Consequently for the future such decisions, in whatever area, should be taken out to the hands of ministers and handed over to the judiciary.

Important as the above matters are, they pale into insignificance when compared to the importance of turning the composition of our  second parliamentary chamber  from a rump of people who inherited their places from their ancestors, and others owing their places to the patronage of former prime-ministers and party leaders, into a genuinely  democratic body.

For the Tories to use the "Hunt Affair" as an excuse for blocking long-overdue constitutional reform shows a pettiness more appropriate to the infant-school playground than to members of the the self-styled Mother of Parliaments


  1. I think what has been reported as Labour's potential stance is revealing. If it is accurate and they plan to oppose Lords reform for tactical reasons, then all the coat trailing about Labour being a warm hame for the Lib Dems is so much twaddle. They are authoritarian and will always be so.

    1. From today's paper it appears that Labour are to support the Reform Bill "in principle" and then refuse to support the "programme motion " which will enable the Bill to be debated and voted on in a reasonable period of time. This is clearly a duplicitous wrecking tactic: they are putting the short term advantage, as they see it, of stymieing the Liberal Democrats, over the need for genuine reform. As I think I have outlined earlier, this is not my ideal bill: I should prefer no appointed members at all, seven year rather then 15 year terms, and election by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies and no messing about with party lists, but it is certainly a move in the right direction and all interested in furthering democracy should "go for it."