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Month: August 2012

Nick Clegg’s Statement on House of Lords Reform in full

Nick Clegg’s statement on House of Lords Reform. My thoughts to follow. I however expect people care more about what Nick said than what I think but ho hum…

I support an elected House of Lords because I believe that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who have to obey the laws of the land. That is democracy – and it is what people rightly expect from their politics in the 21st Century.

When the Liberal Democrats came into Government, I knew that creating a democratic Lords would not be straightforward. This cause has long been blocked by an establishment resistant to change and by the vested interests who benefit from maintaining the power of political patronage, while keeping the power of people out.

However, Lords reform was in each party’s manifesto. It was written into the Coalition Agreement – without argument or controversy. And I had hoped that, with enough compromise and cross-party involvement we could build a consensus delivering it once and for all.

After the election I convened cross-party talks. The Government then published a draft bill and white paper with a clear commitment from myself and the Prime Minister to hold the first elections to the Lords in 2015.

We then established a joint committee, of both Houses, to scrutinise our proposals. We amended the Bill once the Joint Committee reported – taking on the majority of their changes. And, last month, in a historic vote an overwhelming majority of MPs backed an elected House of Lords during the Bill’s second reading.

However, despite these painstaking efforts the Labour party and Conservative backbenchers united to block any further progress, preventing government from securing a timetable motion without which the Bill effectively becomes impossible to deliver.

At that point, the Prime Minister said he needed more time, over the summer, to persuade his MPs and I, of course, agreed to that reasonable request. Unfortunately, the PM has confirmed to me, since then, that an insufficient number of his MPs have been persuaded to support the Bill.

In my discussions with the Labour Party leadership, they have made it clear that: while they continue to back Lords reform in principle. They are set on blocking it in practice.

Supporting the ends, but – when push comes to shove – obstructing the means.

I invited Ed Miliband to propose the number of days that Labour believe is necessary for consideration of the Bill. He declined to do so. Instead he confirmed Labour would only support individual closure motions – which could bog down parliament for months.

Regrettably Labour is allowing short-term political opportunism to thwart longterm democratic change.

So, after a long process – almost two and a half years – we do not have the Commons majority needed to ensure this Bill progresses through Parliament. It is obvious that the Bill’s opponents would now seek to inflict on it a slow death: ensuring Lords reform consumes an unacceptable amount of parliamentary time.

Clearly, it would be wrong for me to allow Parliament to be manipulated in this way not least at a time when there is so much else for us to concentrate on.

So I can confirm today that we do not intend to proceed with the Bill in this parliament. The government will make a full statement on this – to parliament – as soon as it returns in September.

To modernisers and campaigners, let me say this: I am as disappointed as you that we have not delivered an elected Lords this time around. But Lords Reform has always been a case of two steps forward, one step back.

And my hope is that we will return to it, in the next Parliament emboldened by the overwhelming vote in favour of our Bill at second reading.

An unelected House of Lords flies in the face of democratic principles and public opinion. It makes a mockery of our claim to be the mother of all democracies. And – even if you put all of that to one side – the ever increasing size of the Lords makes it an unsustainable chamber. It cannot keep growing; reform cannot be forever ducked.

As you know, an elected House of Lords was part of the Coalition Agreement: a fundamental part of the contract that keeps the coalition parties working together in the national interest.

A contract not just to each other, but a set of commitments we have made, collectively, to the British people.

My party has held to that contract even when it meant voting for things that we found difficult. The Liberal Democrats are proving ourselves to be a mature and competent party of Government and I am proud that we have met our obligations.

But the Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken.

Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement.

Coalition works on mutual respect; it is a reciprocal arrangement, a two-way street. So I have told the Prime Minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them.

When part of a contract is broken, it is normal to amend that contract in order then to move on.

Lords reform and boundaries are two, separate parliamentary bills but they are both part of a package of overall political reform. Delivering one but not the other would create an imbalance – not just in the Coalition Agreement, but also in our political system.

Lords reform leads to a smaller, more legitimate House of Lords. Boundary changes lead to a smaller House of Commons, by cutting the number of MPs. If you cut the number of MPs without enhancing the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Lords all you have done is weaken parliament as a whole, strengthen the executive and its overmighty government that wins.

So, for these reasons, I have decided, reluctantly to push the pause button on these controversial parliamentary reforms.

Throughout this process my aim has always been too honour the Coalition Agreement in full – no more, no less. I stood ready – and stand ready – to deliver reforms that are controversial for my party because that is part of a wider, reciprocal arrangement.

That is why, for instance, in a last ditch attempt to keep both sides of the bargain intact, I suggested a solution that would have allowed us to progress with both reforms: a referendum on Lords Reform on election day in 2015, with first elections to the Lords taking place in 2020, while deferring boundary changes to 2020 too.

That would have been in keeping with the Coalition Agreement – in which neither policy had a set timetable. But this offer was not accepted.

So we must now restore balance to the Coalition Agreement, allowing us to draw a line under these events and get on with the rest of our Programme for Government.

My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I remain focused on the urgent task that brought the Coalition together: rescuing, repairing and rebalancing our economy.

And, just as we are determined that this Government delivers economic reform, we are determined to deliver social renewal too.

There are many things that brought me into politics. Many things which animate my party: political reform is one. A fairer tax system is another. Internationalism. The environment. Civil liberties.

But the thing I care about most – the central purpose of the Liberal Democrats in this government – is to build a fairer society. A more socially mobile society, where a person’s opportunities do not depend on the circumstances of their birth, where every individual has the chance to flourish.

We will continue with that critical work. We will continue to anchor this government firmly in the centre ground.

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David Cameron has dumped House of Lords Reform. Don’t panic, Don’t panic, Don’t panic!

It’s over folks. The House of Lords will stay as it is and the Lib Dems have been shafted worse than contestants on Robert Kilroy-Silk’s game-show ‘To share or to shaft.’ Yes a report in the Telegraph this evening says the PM can’t talk around his backbenchers and therefore is giving up. This is the same newspaper that wrote a genuine piece about the perceived ‘Curse of Cameron’ with regards to his witnessing of sporting events led to the lack of Gold medals. It is so dumb that I was going to just blog on that. Now I’m doing a bit of a mix and match and meshing the two blog posts together.

House of Lords Reform is important to the Lib Dems. The other two parties say it is important to them but deep down they couldn’t give a crap as they know that for the foreseeable future only they can run the government. Turkey’s as they say don’t vote for Christmas and one thing we know about politicians is many of them care more about themselves and getting re-elected than they do about representing their constituents. It is one of the reasons so many councillors switch sides. It’s pathetic but heck it is just the way it is.

So anyway if the report is accurate, which is not a given. Then House of Lords Reform goes and no doubt the boundaries will not be changed as the Lib Dems would be pissed and scupper that. Isn’t coalition politics great? The Tories are the big powerful voice but they have a problem that deep down they can’t get over. That they didn’t win an election victory outright and their backbench MPs just can’t get over that. They’ll rejoice they scuppered the Lords reform and then they’ll whine about the ‘insignificant’ Lib Dems not doing everything that they want them to do.

It is ‘hilarious’ – it really is. Clearly that is sarcastic. The whole working together thing isn’t the norm in this country and it is no surprise that these issues have arisen. I expected it earlier. I think most of us expected it earlier in all honesty but we’ll see what happens. The Tories might be paying a larger price than boundaries not being changed. Imagine if the price of scuppering Lords Reform is Vince Cable replacing George Osbourne as Chancellor? I know it is highly unlikely but heck we don’t know what it will play out, if as I said earlier the report is correct.

Everyone is foaming at the mouth on twitter. Well I say everyone I should say instead a lot of people are foaming at the mouth over this. One newspaper report gets everyone going when there are very little facts to go on and even if the facts are correct, we are yet to know the context of how it will all play out.

Sometimes I think people are nuts. A lot of time I think that. You can’t have rational thoughts on a subject unless you have all the facts. In this instance there is very little to go on. Lets all enjoy the Olympics and we’ll see how it plays out. This is not the time nor the place to go mental about the possible House of Lords Reform Bill dying a death.

PS: Yes The Telegraph has posted several pieces about the ‘Curse of Cameron’ – any newspaper that believes in curses and writes serious pieces about it is a newspaper written by morons. There is no such thing as curses. End.

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Helen Skelton quits twitter – begs the question ‘what is fair criticism?’

Blue Peter host Helen Skelton has quit twitter this week after what we assume is negative reaction to her part of the BBC Olympics coverage. The 29 year-old has been out and about in the Olympic Park doing vox-pop type segments that have to be honest not been great. Having done vox-pops I know how evil they are and whether it was her or just the vox-pop concept that I dislike – these pieces aren’t working.

Now we don’t know exactly what sparked her to leave the microblogging site. Whether she got some personal hate or just received criticism for her part of the coverage. She signed off just saying, “Turns out I don’t have very thick skin after all so I am closing my twitter account. Enjoy the games. Signing off, skelts x” which doesn’t really answer that question.

There is a distinct difference between legitimate criticism and personal insults. We don’t know the situation here. The abuse Tom Daley received was personal and vile and that just isn’t on. In this case though we are unclear of what sparked her decision to move on from twitter.

For example some might think that my first paragraph in this blog was unfair. Is it unfair to say that I don’t think someone is doing a very good job on TV? I have had people tell me that they don’t like my blog or my radio shows. Is that unfair or is that just personal opinion? Surely we are all still allowed opinions are we not?

Graham Linehan weighed in on the issue tweeting, “Another one down. This is why we can’t have nice things.” However he has said this not knowing exactly what spurred the TV presenter to leave twitter. Is twitter now a place where no negativity is allowed? If Nigel Farage tweeted that UKIP were the third party of British politics even though they don’t have an MP are we not allowed to ridicule him?

We don’t know the full story behind this. Miss Skelton has chosen not to divulge that information and that is her right. If she got personal abuse then no shock that she quit twitter. If she just got criticism then it is just one of those things and it is indeed her right to close twitter. If you have a thin skin and are on TV then twitter probably isn’t the place for you. Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Twitter can still have criticism but personal abuse is a different kettle of fish entirely. If we can’t criticise people then what is twitter going to do the next time Mark Lawrenson is heard doing a football commentary? Rightly or wrongly if you have a job in the public eye then you’ll get criticism. I remember once blogging about the Channel 4 athletics coverage and their lead commentator John Rawling read it and wasn’t happy. Now we all know Ortis stunk up the joint as lead presenter and was replaced after just a few days therefore vindicating my initial reaction to the announcement. Was that fair? Was that just?

Criticism is what it is and if you are involved in the entertainment industry that is part of the job description I’m afraid. It has always been the case it is just in this era people can read the criticism much easier than people discussing it down the pub. Personal abuse is not fair or just but I don’t see the problem with having an opinion or passing on comment. I don’t think you should ever message someone on twitter saying they weren’t very good or anything but if I tweeted for example – not to her but just a general tweet, “Really not loving these Helen Skelton look-ins on the Olympic Park.” then is that fair or foul?

You tell me…

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