Reviewing the Lords debacle
This week the government’s handling of the House of Lords bill descended into farce. On Tuesday the PM lost control of his party and the government abandoned the programme motion.
Then is his usual helpful way the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott said the PM must ‘not cringe to the Tory dinosaurs now they have tasted blood.’
And at Wednesday’s meeting of the 1922 Committee the prime minister apparently gave a hint about how he wishes to proceed when after hugging his beleaguered chief whip he reportedly said: ‘We are not going to negotiate with Labour, they are the enemy and they can’t be trusted – we are going to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats’
By all accounts the prime minister’s unique perspective on the trustworthiness of Liberal Democrats did not go down terribly well as it was then pointed out to him by a much more experienced member of the conservative parliamentary party that: ‘Labour is not the enemy, they are Her Majesty’s Opposition’.
At business questions on Thursday I gently suggested to the leader of the House that, as the PM clearly doesn’t have the votes on his own side to deliver House of Lords reform, then we should proceed on the basis of genuine cross-party discussion and agreement!
At last week’s business questions I asked the leader of the House about Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers splitting government time to enable them to differentiate themselves from each other.
In reply Sir George Young said that, when it came to the House of Lords bill, there would be: ‘a seamless approach to the legislation from those who are opening and closing the debates’.
It didn’t quite work out like that did it?
After the government announced at the end of last month that it was launching a £14m fund to offer advice to those going through the process of divorce, I asked the leader of the House say whether the prime minister and his deputy were the first in line to use it!
Meanwhile the deputy prime minister sent an email to his dwindling band of party activists. In it he says of Tuesday’s Lords vote: ‘This is a huge triumph for our party’.
I have to ask, in the eyes of the deputy prime minister I wonder what on earth a disaster looks like!
The suggestion that replacing the remaining hereditary peers with directly elected members is a substantive reform is absurd.
We have been debating whether there should be a 100 per cent or 80 per cent elected second chamber – electing just 10 per cent wouldn’t be a democratic reform.
A 10 per cent elected second chamber wouldn’t be a compromise – it would be the Liberal Democrats running up the white flag.
All in all the government has had a shambolic week.
The prime minister has lost control of his party.
Liberal Democrat MPs are in revolt threatening to vote against government bills.
And government whips have taken to ordering rebel Tory backbenchers off the premises.
And it isn’t just government whips that have been bullying their own backbenchers.
We have got used to the prime minister losing his rag at the dispatch box. But on Tuesday night, in one of his Flashman moments, the PM had an angry altercation with one of the leading backbench rebels.
I asked the leader of the House make a suggestion to the prime minister?
George Young, House of Lords reform, Labour, Liberal Democrats