Harold Wilson resigned in 1976 when he kept seeing the same issues landing on his desk time and time again.
It’s a bit like that in politics at the moment. Cash for questions, party funding, Lords Reform. This incompetent political class keep being caught in the headlights by the latest scandal. What it should be telling politicians is that bold courageous reform is needed.
At 800, there are too many Lords. Many do an outstanding job, bringing their lifetime experience to shape legislation often sent in ill considered form from the Commons. But 800 is far too many and is about to be topped up by another set of peers. Let us hope that list doesn’t include people who are put in the Lords because of donations to political parties.
Although Nick Clegg’s efforts to reform the Lords last year crashed and burned and people wrote off the issue for a generation, it won’t go away. The House of Lords needs to be reformed. This government has lost its appetite to do it. So the next one needs to decide the Lords’ powers and how the chamber should be elected. Then drive it through. The method of doing this would be the one threatened a hundred years ago namely to create enough temporary peers to vote through reform. The threat worked in 1910, so why not now? Consensual reform was desirable but isn’t going to be possible.
My model would be a chamber of 150 or so. 80% would be elected from the regions of the UK. 20% would be nominated by an Independent Appointments Commission who would choose people with useful life experience, and representatives of all faith communities.
If any of these peers were convicted of an imprisonable offence, they would be excluded from the Lords for life. The same would apply to MPs in the Commons.
LABOUR SHOW SOME ECONOMIC ANKLE
Labour is at last succumbing to the pressure to reveal its economic policy, but the bit of ankle we’ve seen so far is uninspiring. Abandoning universality in respect of the winter fuel allowance is a mistake on two counts. Firstly a line has been crossed and it will only be a matter of time before free TV licences and bus passes face bureaucratic means testing. Secondly Labour is accepting the policy reasoning of the Coalition on allowances, benefits and even deficit reduction.
People may well conclude that they might just as well stick with the people who implement such policies with conviction.
FUTURE OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS
A little noticed part of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls “iron discipline” speech included a swipe at the new Police and Crime Commissioners. He said more was being spent on them than the old Police Authorities.
In the North West their performance has been patchy with the Commissioners in Cumbria and Lancashire embroiled in rows over their expenses. In Merseyside Commissioner Jane Kennedy has faced criticism from former Merseyside Police Authority Chair Bill Weightman who was a rival for the Labour nomination.
As most of the Commissioners elected in the North were Labour, Mr Balls might face quite a row if he gets to No 11 and tries to scrap them.