In this blog post I find myself in the unusual position of opposing the position taken by Nick Clegg following the failure of the Coalition to deliver on House of Lords reform. We always knew it was not going to be possible for the Conservatives to hold up their part of this bargain, but we also knew that Labour were fundamentally supportive of House of Lords reform, and its inclusion in the coalition agreement was clearly based on that assumption.
It is not just the Conservatives who have reneged on their pledge to the British people over the House of Lords reform, it is even more so the Labour Party who despite claiming throughout their history that they support the democratisation of the second chamber have not only refused to introduce the necessary changes when they have held a majority in the House of Commons, but have now refused to support the actions necessary to make the changes when they have been proposed by a Conservative led coalition government.
In this I hold Labour far more culpable than the Conservatives, because it has never really been in the nature of the Conservatives to democratise the House of Lords, it has always been in the stated nature of Labour to do so and their failure on this issue, whilst in opposition, demonstrates the entirely opportunistic nature of the Labour Party.
Let us be clear on this, Labour refused to back these reforms because they anticipated that in a tit-for-tat response Nick Clegg would refuse to back the equalisation of parliamentary constituencies proposed by the Conservatives.
At present there are far more Labour MP’s than the strength of their vote warrants, because Labour MP’s on the whole represent constituencies that are smaller in population than those represented by Conservatives. By blocking the boundary changes Nick Clegg is rewarding Labour by making it easier for them to form a Government by virtue of that electoral inequity.
Above all, Liberal Democrats believe in one person one vote in a proportional electoral system and whilst the whole package we sought to achieve has not been secured, for us to fail to deliver on the one part that remains possible, that everybody’s vote carries equal weight, is wholly the wrong decision.
After the mess that Labour made of our economy and the lies that they have told about Liberal Democrats in Government to reward them for their betrayal of the basic fundamental principle of democracy is wrong.
Perhaps what Nick Clegg would have been better doing would have been to say ‘right, we didn’t get AV, we didn’t get HoL Reform, you want boundary changes which is something we support in principle. Give us regional top-ups to parliamentary seats in return to ensure that the membership of the House of Commons reflects the votes cast in the election.’
The time was right to reopen the debate, not to close in a way that perpetuates the inequalities that benefit the Labour Party.