Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Labour should blush with shame.

The push-me-pull-you antics of the Labour Party yesterday on Lords' reform showed British politics at its worst.    It is not surprising that 91 Tories voted against the motion for reform.  After all, the preservation of privilege and clinging to things past are core Conservative traits.  Nor do I feel that Mr Cameron's failure to haul them into line is a sign of his weakness and a betrayal of the coalition cause.  In general I believe  spirited independence among MPs rather than slavish obedience to the Whips is to be welcomed and hope we shall see more of it on other issues 

What is disgraceful is that the Labour Party, allegedly progressive, should vote for the reform but be whipped against the timetable motion that would make reform possible: to will the end but not the means. Their published reason was that the programme motion provided for only (sic) fourteen days of debate.  Just how much do they want on an issue which has been on the agenda for over 100 years, and intensively discussed in the past few months?

Clearly their motive (apart from perhaps a few who fancied being Lords themselves, with a £300 a day attendance allowance, a political after-life and a fancy title for the rest of their days) is to embarrass the coalition and take a swipe at Nick Clegg.  We rightly deplore short-termism in financial affairs: it is equally deplorable in politics.

In choosing Ed Miliband as their leader Labour appeared to be putting the compromised New Labour years behind them and setting out on a fresh and radical path.  This tatty tactical "victory", in reality a defeat for their principles, will be recorded as a shameful episode in their history.

In the wider field, the whole episode does further damage to the health of our democracy.  It would be foolish to suppose that many more than we political anoraks have been following these events with much concern, but what confidence can the electorate in general  have in a political process in which all three parties promise House of Lords reform in their manifestos, but then the process is abused so that the promised outcome is frustrated.  This adds further fuel for the cynicism which is rapidly becoming the dominant political creed.

The one person coming out of the debacle smelling of roses is Nick Clegg.   Regular readers will know that I am not prone to shower him with excessive praise, but he has stuck to his beliefs and principles whilst his fellow leaders, Cameron slightly and Miliband considerably, are tarnished. This shameful episode could yet well rebound to his credit.  As Wimbledon showed, and the Olympics are likely to show, Britain warms to an plucky underdog who fights to the finish.


  1. It may be overdue, but reform of the Lords is not a burning issue for the electorate.
    I was taught thet Marx and Freud were the main threats to democracy - both undermining rationalism for different reasons, one economic, the other psychological.
    It now seems both were wrong and the real destructive factor which is making modern politics incomprehensible is the primacy of economic technical jargon about the euro and libor which renders the unsophisticated unable to analyse the issues involved. We know thet Fred the Shred and Bob Diamond are villains but do not really understand why...Talk about light touch regulation is beyond the majority of the electorate and Osborne and Balls are seen as naughty children in the playground insulting each other whilst the guilty walk away with massive and undeserved mmillions.
    And what is the difference between quantitative easing anf Keynesian spending? I am sure the electorate do not know.
    We will not be a meaningful democracy until we have leaders who can explain such matters? Or at least tell their civil servants to try?
    We are a long way from Lincoln's government of the people now.

  2. Whenever did politicians blush with shame? Jeremy Hunt still seems to be around being embarrassingly stupid.

    1. To Severn Boar:

      I deliberately wrote "should" blush with shame, and agree with you that they don't, which is why , in my view, people are becoming more and more cynical about the political process and voter turnout is falling. It is, in my view, absolutely vital to restore confidence and for this politicians need to speak the truth and behave responsibly and honourably.

  3. Hear, hear. As one of the Neanderthals who wishes to defeat House of Lords "reform", I still think Ed Miliband is playing politics for petty gain. This legislation should be defeated for a good number of practical and philosophical reasons, but not because Mr Miliband wishes to score a cheap political advantage.

    1. Welcome back, Chris. Since privilege is a core Conservative value I'm not surprised that you wish the Lords to be retained, but am sorry you feel it should be stocked by patronage, especially when some of the the patrons are present and former Labour leaders (eg Tony Blair)