How can you be in favour of reform of the House of Lords and threaten to vote against a timetable for debate that is put in place to ensure that the legislation cannot be scuppered by delaying tactics of opponents of reform?
At the same time, how can you argue that there are more important issues to deal with in Parliament and then vote against a timetable that would allow those other debates to take place? This is Labour’s position now, and it doesn’t make sense.
It was a peculiar debate taking place in Parliament on Monday and Tuesday about House of Lords reform. The vote was 462-124 in favour of the principle, a majority of 338. Only 91 Tories, 26 Labour and 8 DUP MP’s voted against reform, including Manchester Labour MPs Gerald Kaufman and Graham Stringer.
Labour wanted to oppose the timetable for the debate, although every bill has one of these timetables, including every one they did in their 13 years in power. They could have moved an amended to lengthen the debate timetable, as Green MP Caroline Lucas did. The Government kept asking how many extra days Labour wanted to debate the Bill, but they refused to answer, simply because they intended to vote against the programme motion, regardless of the number of days for debate.
So the maths was done and timetable motion was withdrawn, to come back in the autumn.
So, what happens now?
The Tory rebels fall into two camps- those that say they want reform, but not this; and those that are against reform full stop. If they are sincere about reform, the former have a moral obligation to tell us what they would accept.
The Labour leadership have a similar obligation. Is their bottom line a referendum (although Mr Blair’s Lords reform weren’t subject to a similar referendum), or the 15 year term, or the 80% elected element? Would they rather support a non-elected, indefinite term upper house with the hereditary principle still there in 1012?
And as for the DUP. Could someone sit down with them and see what their concerns are, and if a deal is possible. Gordon Brown did a deal with them over 42 day detention in 2008. Surely its worth a meeting?
The 338 majority who voted for Lords Reform, and 67% of the electorate who back these plans should not be thwarted on a technicality. Next time, we need to get our ducks in a row.