In between naps, I watched the Federer Murray tennis final, and as predicted, Federer won at a canter. The one thing that surprised me was that Murray was upset at losing! I mean, get a reality check! And the same applies to the overhyped press and media. Tears followed defeat, shared by several who knew and loved the lad, including his mother and life partner who spent the entire tournament shouting the odds like a fishwife.
But enough of Murray, and back to more pressing issues.
The reform of the House of Lords is on the political agenda, or sort of, with many Tory MPs opposed, and the Lib Dems insisting on reform as their price for supporting boundary changes. The whole business looks very tacky indeed!
The historians amongst you will remember the Parliament Act 1911, when the Lords backed down and ceded primacy to the Commons on all fiscal matters. Since then, the Lords has become increasingly a consultative chamber, and when push comes to shove, the Commons reigns supreme. Fair enough, as the House of Commons is the elected chamber, over which the voting public has a say in its constituent parts.
The problem about the Lib Dems’ proposals is that an elected House of Lords chamber risks elevating it beyond its present remit, to the point where they can, and possibly will, challenge government legislation and propose legislation of their own motion. To a limited extent they can do this now, but it is, above all, to a limited extent.
An elected chamber must ultimately answer to its electorate, or else it defeats the purpose of the exercise. As an elector, I will not expect my representative to become a ‘yes’ man to the Commons, but to represent me according to my chosen candidate’s manifesto. If he does not, then I shall not vote for him again. After all, that is the basic principle of democracy.
Reforming the Lords in the way proposed by the Lib Dems is the worst of both worlds. It risks changing their mandate without any checks and balances in place, and frankly, this will jar with the Parliament Act and all that followed. It amounts to a major constitutional change.
I am not sure how it will work. Do you have to be a Lord before you can stand for election? If so, that narrows the field and possibly disqualifies the most worthy candidates. If not, do you become a Lord if elected? And what happens if you lose your seat? Do you revert to Mr. Joe Bloggs, or are you still Lord Bloggs?
There are two options: either leave the House of Lords as it is, warts and all, and adopt the memorable quip attributed to Louis B Mayer: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Or abolish the House of Lords, and have a truly elected chamber similar to the American Senate. This tinkering at the edges proposed by the Lib Dems is a recipe for constitutional confrontation and, like so many of their ideas, badly thought through if at all.