...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day 2265: Elect the Elephant, part deux


Last week I told you all about how the MPs had voted to make the House of Lords Club be all elected.

I had a good old look at the numbers and it turned out that the Labour and the Conservatories are split down the middle, Lord Blairimort only bothered to vote once, Mr Balloon is all over the place and only the Liberal Democrats are united and have their act together.

Well, now their worthy lordships have voted too and they are NOT SO KEEN on having to stand for election and let people kick them out if they are rubbish.

So I shall have a look at how the parties divided in the UPPER HOUSE too!

The first thing to say is that EVEN THOUGH the Liberal Democrats were not so united in the House of Lords Club as we were in the House of Commons, we were the ONLY party with a MAJORITY against an all elected Upper House, AND a MAJORITY in favour of an 80% elected or a 100% elected Upper House. While 20 or so of our Lords and Ladies sat this one out, and up to another 15 voted THE WRONG WAY(!) there were at least three or four times as many Liberal Democrats in the lobbies for less PATRONAGE and more DEMOCRACY.

Getting it COMPLETELY the wrong way around, an absolute majority of Conservatory Peers voted FOR unelected and AGAINST every single option for elected lords. In fact this was over 60% of Conservatories in every case, except for the 80% elected option which managed to entice a whole 22 of their ermine-clad number… while two-and-a-half times as many abstained!

United the Conservatories may be, but unfortunately it is in OPPOSITION to their so-called Leader, Mr Balloon, who you may recall voted AGAINST an unelected chamber and FOR 80% and 100%. Perhaps someone got their WIRES CROSSED somewhere. Either that or Mr Balloon cannot control his own party!

(You would have to be FAR MORE CYNICAL than fluffy me to suggest that Mr Balloon merely POSED as pro-democracy, safe in the knowledge that his DINOSAUR TENDENCY would knock it into touch for him!)

The Conservatories – they say one thing in one Place and the opposite in the Other Place.

Not that GRINNING MANIAC Lord Blairimort – strangely not voting in person! – had much to SMILE about either, as his own Peers also declined to follow the script, instead singing their own tune and choosing to go off message. All at once!

With a hundred of the Labour Lords, almost half, voting to remain unelected and another sixty-three not voting, fewer than a quarter actually supported any election at all. In fact fewer than an EIGHTH of the Labour peers were willing to support the 50% or 60% elected options. And only 40 (that's fewer than a fifth) supported the 80% option. (Though in fairness, since Tony has filled the House with his cronies entirely fairly increased the representation of the Labour, that was more actual votes in favour than the Lib Dems.)

The vote for 100% elected seems to have been a bit of a special case for the Labour, though. (The Conservatories were OBVIOUSLY massively against!) The Labour, however, were split 60:83 – still a majority against the motion (unlike the Liberal Lords) but much narrower.

The issue is further muddled, though, by sixteen of the Labour – Lord Ahmed, Baroness Andrews, Lord Bassam of Brighton, Lord Cunningham of Felling, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Lord Harris of Haringey, Baroness Howells of St. Davids, Lord Jones, Lord Maxton, Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, Lord Radice, Lord Rooker, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Lord Truscott, Lord Williams of Elvel, Lord Woolmer of Leeds – who managed to vote for a 100% UNELECTED chamber AND for a 100% ELECTED chamber.

Let us be FAIR – it must be very CONFUSING and it was a LONG NIGHT. And three of the Liberal Democrat peers managed to do the SAME: Lord Methuen, Baroness Thomas of Walliswood and Lord Watson of Richmond, I hang my fluffy head in SHAME!

(And while we are at it, FOUR of the ELEVEN Conservatories who voted for a completely democratic House of Lords Club had ALREADY voted for a completely undemocratic one. The Earl of Caithness, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Lord Inglewood and Lord Lucas were the ones having it BOTH WAYS. Which kind of means only SEVEN Conservatories ACTUALLY MEANT IT!)

This is all a bit BIZARRE. People said that this happened in the Commons vote too, and that some MPs wanted to make the bill the most extreme in order to guarantee that the Lords would block it. Perhaps these Lords have the same idea: are they trying to provoke THE QUEEN into blocking the bill?!

Anyway, the great thing about the House of Lords Club – we are always being told – is that there are more voices to be heard than JUST the "traditional" parties.

Actually, only about half of the crossbenchers gave us the VALUABLE BENEFIT of their non-partisan wisdom by voting. Which is a good advert for how IMPORTANT they themselves think they are to the chamber. They were pretty much 9 to 1 in favour of all appointed and similarly against any percent of elected. The 202 crossbenchers representing an ENTIRELY APPOINTED 28% of the current chamber.

The Lord sitting for the Green-Welly Party and the two Conservatories who defected to the UKPNuts all voted for 100% appointed and then against 50:50. After that, his Green Lordship and one of their UKPNutty Lordships went to bed, though the other UKPNut kept up the votes against increased democracy by voting against 60% and 80% elected before he too called it a night. We might have already guessed that the anarcho-collectivist Green-Eyed-Monster Party would be pro-central control (no LEADERS but a central committee to tell us HOW WE MUST LIVE), but it is NICE to see that restoring powers to the British People from Europe does not go as far as actually restoring powers to the British People, then.

Disappointing as it may have been to have the House of Lords Club vote to remain an archaic institution, undermined by sleaze and overrun by patronage, there were still some refreshing moments.

For those who like the sound of the SCHADENFREUDE SONG, the biggest beating of the night went, once again, to Lord Blairimort and Mr Man O' Straw's preferred option of 50% elected: 50% cash in brown envelope.

Or, on a more POSITIVE note, even though it was defeated, the largest vote in the content lobby (and the smallest majority against) went to the 100% elected option. Yes, their Lordships may be three to one against the idea of elections, but those who are convinced are REALLY convinced. Good for them.

I'm rather afraid that the rest of you are going to have to get ready for the PARLIAMENT ACT.

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