...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, March 09, 2007

Day 2257: Elect the Elephant!


The campaign must start today!

A House of Lords Club for the New Millennium. And VICE VERSA!

Yes, I want to get my fluffy bottom on a nice red leather seat. I will BE that elephant in the room! I am the new Lord Woolsack!

There is a SNAG: Lord Blairimort is unlikely to bring in legislation that will allow the standing for parliament by (a) seven-year-olds [R: six-year-olds] (b) elephants (c) soft toys.

Therefore, I have a PLAN! I will HYPNOTISE Daddy Richard into standing for Lordliness and he can act as my PUPPET!

Who wants to help?

Parliament has decided to sweep aside the last remnant of the Old Republic and… hang on… that's backwards. The power to appoint cronies is actually being taken AWAY from the evil emperor and given back to the only people who can really be expected to decide who is best to govern: all of us.

Personally, I was very pleased to see the huge support received for the 100% elected choice. This will make it really rather difficult for Mr Jack Man O' Straw to come back to the Commons with plans for anything less – though I do not doubt he will try to wheedle it back to the 80% option.

Incidentally, that is NOT to do down people who have a GENUINE belief in a small number of appointed peers. It's just that Mr Man O' Straw does not believe in 80% for a moment.

Mr Rob, for example, makes a JOLLY GOOD case for the good work done by hard working appointed lords, particularly from the cross-benches, and suggests that this should be reason to retain them.

But I keep coming back to the idea that if you want to have a say in the laws that run people's lives then you ought to be willing to let those people have a say in whether they want you or not.

Yes, I know that that means that the people who very often succeed are the ones who know oratory or party hackery rather than quantum jacket-potato baking or how to hand rear a rare Guatemalan albino pigmy-lemur, but it is still the CHOICE of the people rather than some distant panel of at-best-vaguely-accountable "great and good".

Or as Mr Balloon's second favourite person after Ms Polly Toytown once put it:

"Democracy is the worst system of government apart from all the others."

Perhaps we could have these people form a PANEL of EXPERT WITNESSES: people who are able to contribute their expertise in the Upper House by speaking in debates or cross-examining on committees but not actually voting. Goodness, we have enough Lordly titles to go around: non-voting experts could be called BARONS (since there won't BE any more barons as they're the NOT HEREDITARY ones).

The VOTING members could just be called PEERS, because that is what they would be: OUR PEERS.

Or maybe that is SILLY and we should not be creating FIRST and SECOND class members of Parliament.

But if you want to HAVE a vote, you ought to let people to VOTE for you.

Mr Man O' Straw, of course, had very precise instructions from Lord Blairimort: give them enough democracy to look like we mean it and not enough to damage my ability to pay for the next election govern. Hence his heavily pushing his favoured 50:50 model.

Of course, the 50:50 model was the most HEAVILY DEFEATED vote of the night.

You can imagine the scene on the carpet in the Downing Street BUNKER late last night. Mr Man O' War stands there trembling while Lord Blairimort spells it out:

"Well… Jack… I was, y'know… going to kick you upstairs for your failure, but… gosh… looks like that's no longer an option! Furious eyes. Appointed haircut. Toe-on-the-pedal-that-works-the-piranha-pool twitch."

Ironically, this was also the one vote all night that Lord Blairimort deigned to turn up for in person. This just goes to show that the once ALL-CONQUERING Lord Blairimort is now so fatally out of touch that he can only carry just over a third of the Labour with him on a key policy.

Was his successor any better at judging the mood? Well, Mr Frown allowed himself to be seen in the lobbies voting against the wholly unelected upper chamber and then later to go though the aye lobby for 80%. Principled or canny? Or just a desire to stick one on Lord Blairimort by visibly saying "we should go further than you want, Tony"?

In fact the only potential Prime Minister to vote on each and every division was our own Sir Mr the Merciless.

(Mr Balloon clearly couldn't guess which way the wind was blowing on 60% and had to sit that one out!)

And it's very obvious that the whole Liberal Democratic party was united behind him on this – entirely as it should be since the LONG overdue reform of the British Constitution is a VERY important way to give more protection to people from over-mighty governments like Lord Blairimort's. And indeed, reform of the House of Lords Club is something we were kind of in the middle of when we were, er, asked to sit out the next NINETY YEARS of government. So it's about time we got stuck back in!

The Conservatories, on the other fluffy foot, were entirely ALL OVER THE PLACE and succeeded in being – on balance – AGAINST EVERY SINGLE ONE of the options given. Yes, even on the 80% elected option that Mr Balloon voted for, he only had the following of 80 of his fellows, while 98 were in the lobby against him, merrily cancelling him out.

They were just as split down the middle (80 to 103) on the all elected option, while other options were rejected rather more resoundingly.

So basically, the Conservatories would like either a super-quango or a nearly-properly democratic house but nothing in between and can't actually quite bring themselves to support either preference.

It's so nice to see that they're so FULLY committed to the representative democracy of the Twenty-first Twentieth Nineteenth Century… er… [R: insert famous "Spitting Image" Margaret Thatcher line here!]

Do PLEASE call us when you have made up your minds.

The Labour were no more united – except when it came to giving Mr Man O' War a decent kicking – but the voting did show something of a progression, starting with the Labour members two-to-one rejecting an all elected house and gradually moving into parity so that when it got to the 80% elected option they were 157 in favour to 162 against. A net vote of 5 against. Yes, on the 80% vote, the Labour cancelled themselves out even more effectively than the Conservatories.

This means, if you look at it, that that 38 majority on the call for an 80% elected House of Lords is pretty much ALL Liberal Democrats.

(Thank you also Plaid Cymru, Ms Claire "Independent Labour" Snort and Mr Gorgeous "Respect" Pussycat-Leotard for your various 5 votes in favour.)

Finally there is the HUGE swing around as the Labour turned on their heads and voted two-to-one in favour of a 100% elected chamber.

(This is, of course, quite consistent with the two-to-one vote against a 100% UNelected chamber.)

Mr Alex Salmon parades his troupe of six Scottish Nasties though the aye lobby to make some sort of point (they've been voting No, or possibly Nae, all evening); the Conservatories fall entirely to pieces, the Liberal Democrats remain united and we all go home laughing.

Whatever some people might say about it all being a trick by anti-reformers to wreck any possible House of Lords bill, you have to say it certainly LOOKS consistent with the will of the House being in favour of a fully elected democratic upper chamber.


Actually, I say we all went home, but in fact there was one last vote on the order paper: the decision on whether to get rid of the remaining 90 (plus 2) Hereditary House of Lords Club members.

This seems a pretty obvious step to take if you are moving to a new and democratic second chamber.

So, rather to my fluffy surprise, the measure to abolish the remaining Hereditaries was HEAVILY DEFEATED: 241 in favour to 329 against. Or, more accurately: ALL the Liberals and Conservatories in favour and ALL the Labour against[*].

([*]okay, five Labour did vote for abolition and eight Conservatories did vote against but in context this is almost nothing!)

So, the Labour united to NUKE their OWN suggestion to finish off the my-great-granddad-knew-Nell-Gwynne vote.

Why would they DO that?

Well, with our support Mrs Theresa May-NOT for the Conservatories HAD amended Mr Man O' Straw's proposal slightly so that the last Hereditary Lords would lose their votes only when the newly elected House took their place. Which seems fair enough, doesn't it?

After all, if they all suddenly went TODAY, then – because 42 of them are Conservatories – it would change the balance of the House of Lords Club. In fact, it would give the Labour a majority in the upper House (for the first time ever) and put a stop to any INCONVENIENT checks on Lord Blairimort's ABSOLUTE POWER.

But, NO ONE cold want such an UNFAIR thing to happen, could they?

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