Labour’s same old waffle on Lords reform

Keir Starmer has promised that if Labour wins the next UK General Election, the Labour government will abolish the House of Lords. More accurately, that should read, the Labour party has promised yet again to abolish the House of Lords. The abolition of the unelected upper chamber has been Labour policy since the party was first founded. The first attempt to make the upper chamber democratic was in 1911 when the Liberal Government of the day introduced the Parliament Act which promised, amongst other things : “whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.”

This Act did curtail the powers of the Lords, which at the time was entirely hereditary in its composition and deeply reactionary in its views. The Act removed the ability of the Lords to veto the budget, the House of Commons was also given the power to overrule the Lords’ veto of other bills after three parliamentary sessions. In 1917 the Bryce Commission was set up to consider further proposals to reform the Lords. However the commission’s recommendations were rejected by a vote in the House of Lords and the matter was dropped until after WW2. Labour’s Parliament Act of 1949, amended the 1911 act and reducing the time the Lords could delay a bill from two sessions to one, this was done in order to prevent the Lords from derailing the Labour Government’s plans for the sweeping nationalisation of strategic industries, such as the railways, coal, and steel, and the introduction of the Welfare State.

Further tinkering came in 1958 with the Life Peerages Act which created a new class of peerage, those who were appointed for life and held full voting rights in the Lords, but whose peerages were not hereditary. Since 1965 almost all new peerages have been life peerages, with the notable exception of the hereditary baronetcy conferred by Margaret Thatcher upon her husband Denis in 1990, which passed to their son Mark upon Denis Thatcher’s death in 2003. Mark Thatcher continues to hold the peerage and entitlement to a seat in the Lords despite being involved in numerous controversies and allegations of corrupt business dealings, and being convicted, fined, and given a four year suspended prison sentence in South Africa for funding the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état attempt, he is barred from entry to the USA and deprived of residency in Monaco as an ‘undesirable’ but he still has the right to influence British laws and legislation.

There were further abortive attempts at reform of the Lords in the 1960s. In 1968 Harold Wilson’s Labour government published a white paper proposing some fairly anodyne measures that would tinker with the composition of the Lords. Perhaps the most significant of these was that the sitting government of the day would gain the right to appoint sufficient life peers to ensure that it had a majority in the Lords, this was to counter the in-built Conservative majority in the Lords created by the hereditary peers who numerically dominated in the chamber. Hereditary peers who were currently members of the Lords would have remained as non-voting members for life, but their heirs would not succeed to their seats.

Although scarcely earth-shattering, these proposals died a death, Wilson announced in April 1969 that his government would not proceed with the bill.

The matter was left to lie again, although there was mounting concern throughout the Thatcher era about the advantages granted to the Conservatives by an upper House composed primarily of hereditary Conservative peers. In the 1997 General Election the Labour party under Tony Blair had a manifesto commitment to radical reform of the Lords. The manifest declared: “The House of Lords must be reformed. As an initial, self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform in the future, the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute.”

Many believed, and were not disabused by the Labour party in their belief, that Labour would move immediately to abolish the hereditary nature of the Lords and would then introduce proposals to make the upper chamber elected. Labour promised to establish a Royal Commission to examine further reform. Blair’s government passed the House of Lords Act 1999 which created a majority of appointed Peers in the Lords with a remaining group of 92 hereditary peers who were supposed to retain their voting rights only until the second phase of reform was complete. These 92 were elected from within those who had a right to be members of the House of Lords as a result of their hereditary status. The government asserted that this arrangement was to be purely temporary until the second stage of reform was completed. 23 years later they are still there.

However Labour soon backtracked on proposals for an elected upper chamber, by 2003 Blair was speaking in favour of a fully appointed Upper House. Plans to make the Lords an elected chamber were quietly dropped. The attraction of life peerages to a Prime Minister are obvious. They are the crack cocaine of political patronage, permitting Prime Ministers to reward their cronies and toadies, as we have seen recently with Boris Johnson awarding peerages to Alister Jack and Nadine Dorries. Peerages are doled out to party donors, superannuated politicians, and as a reward for failure in public office. It is a system which reeks of corruption and which has led to an ever more bloated House of Lords, stuffed to the gills with political lightweights many of whom rarely bother to show up.

Although it’s now being reported that Keir Starmer wants to abolish life peerages and the remaining hereditary peers and replace them with a fully elected upper chamber, that is not in fact what Labour is proposing. Rather what we are getting is another promise to ‘reform the Lords’. All that Labour is promising is a plan to hold a ‘consultation’ on what a reformed new chamber might look like, and a promise to in addition to ‘reform’ the current appointments process.

In other words, it’s just more of the same old waffle, which will lead to an upper chamber which serves the interests of the British establishment and not the people. Same as it ever was.

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30 comments on “Labour’s same old waffle on Lords reform

  1. Cowdenbeath aye says:

    Aye of course they will remove the House of Lords. If you believe that keep your head down and beware flying pigs.

  2. Skintybroko says:

    Another nail on the head article Paul, great to have someone who continues to provide realistic commentary on what the politicians are actually saying. As usual we take what labour say with a pinch of salt.

  3. Isabel says:

    I don’t believe a word he says.

    Sent from Outlook for iOShttps://aka.ms/o0ukef ________________________________

  4. Hamish100 says:

    Labour Scotland is not a Scottish party. Labour politicians are lying to the Scottish electorate that is.
    It is pro Brexit and it is pro South East England first and foremost.
    It is not Pro Scottish.

  5. Hamish100 says:

    https://www.labourlords.org.uk/labour_peers 171 peers

    They hold the tories to account 🤥

    This is a good bit “ Leadership
    Our Peers embody Labour’s values of social justice, equal opportunity and fairness for all. ”
    Just appoint us – don’t elect us, and no Scotland you have no rights, because we say so.

  6. davetewart says:

    What’s the hurry, J Keir Hardy said the same 112 years ago.

  7. Hamish100 says:

    And on bbc news we have live in his blues the health spokesman for the tories blaming the snp on all issues nhs. Not sure if he is being paid as MSP or as a NHS employee or go consultant at present? Probably all 3?
    BBC # trash scotland

    • deelsdugs says:

      And our FM made the point that ‘this is a bbc report’. Having not heard anything at all today and switched the radio on driving home, to hear accounts that nhs Scotland was effectively being privatised by the Scottish government, kinda made made ma toes curl, then the other bits were discussed. Oh how nasty and corrupt bbc Scotland …wonder who’s bagging their ermine…

  8. Azel says:

    Looks like Labour are getting their excuses in early. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the consultation Labour promises ends up with something like an upper house appointed by the government of the day.

  9. Dr Jim says:

    Why on earth would any English British imperialist political party really want to do anything about the House of Lords other than strengthen it for their own use, and of course the real biggie and most important of all *the reward* for services rendered by donors and or groveling party members prepared to do and say anything for and on behalf of their party

    The Imperialist government of Englands Britain needs a long term reward system, it can’t depend on only loyalty for loyalties sake, it must have either monetary or prestige value, preferably both, to hand to those loyal servants of the crown or God forbid democracy could break out as people without prospects of loads of dosh later begin speaking their own minds in the present

    And what about recruiting new drone MPs ? without that promise of glory and financial security later in life the political parties might have to employ the services of people with principles who want to represent the people, and oh dear God they can’t have any of that kind of nonsense can they

    The imperial parliament of England’s UK must be controlled by the promise of gifts and rewards otherwise decisions in the interests of the wealthy and powerful might not be taken, it’s not a democracy for goodness sake, we can’t have people willy nilly voting and deciding on whatever they choose, that wouldn’t do at all by Jove

  10. Bob Lamont says:

    An excellent summation of Starmer’s latest wheeze – “Same old waffle” is a close approximation to what my Scots grandad used to say, a man who’d been a committed Labour supporter all his days but had few kind words for the surrender of the party’s principles on the altar of gaining power in London.

    To expand on what davetewart highlight above, Keir Hardy was pushing for the abolition of the Lords and “Home Rule” over a century ago, London is not about to move now on removing this historical artefact, only Scotland can do that do that by itself through independence.

    What Starmer’s “focus-groups” via advisers have probably spotted is a hook by which to regain Labour support, but a century is a long time in politics north (and I suggest south) of the border. Great ad but the product is rubbish.

    I can readily imagine this same spiel paraded decades after we are gone as a Nation, London are too busy playing “it’s just politics” game to notice folks aren’t buying their game any more despite them “allegedly” holding all the cards…
    Something will inevitably go bang, the farther we are away from the blast the better…

    • Welsh_Siôn says:

      a century is a long time in politics north (and I suggest south) of the border.

      _________

      And west of the border. It was only recently that ‘Welsh’ Labour were celebrating their centenary of being ‘the most successful’ (aye, right), party in Wales. True, they have never lost an election in Cymru since 1922 – but what have we got to show for it?

      Ditto, we haven’t voted Conservative since the time of the Indian Wars of Independence of 1857. Scotland is a late comer on the stage in that respect if it harks back only to 1950.

      • Bob Lamont says:

        Strewth, RTD2 might actually be offended by that. Again.

      • I will note that Scotland has never voted English Conservative. The Unionist Party (Scotland) were an independent Scottish party, first and foremost liberal in tradition. When they merged with the English conservatives in 1965, so they went into long term decline.

  11. Legerwood says:

    It is only a few short weeks ago that Starmer put forward names of Labour supporters/ex-MPs to be elevated to the HoL Tom Watson was one of those put forward for the Ermine Cloak. If Starmer was serious about replacing the HoL then he could announce now that he will not put forward any more names for enoblement given that he intends to abolish the HoL when/if elected.

    Given the revolving door that No 10 has become there will no doubt be more resignation honours lists before the next election and Royal Birthday, Coronation, New Year’s Honours lists so plenty of scope for Starmer to underscore his intention to abolish by not nominating anyone. But he won’t do that.

    Labour saying they intend to abolish the HoL is their default position when they don’t have any policies.

  12. Aye, multi-millionaire knight of the empire Sir Starmer is someone the people can trust. A man of his word.

    https://archive.ph/GRNkj

    Keir Starmer has abandoned the commitment to free movement of people in the European Union he made to Labour members during the party’s leadership contest.

    He has many close Tory friends you know, and is proud of that.

  13. deelsdugs says:

    Thank you Paul. This is another grand post that my reading would ordinarily have never taken me into. Very much appreciated.

  14. So today, two countries which are not democracies, but actively repress the civil rights of their citizens… which both have unelected upper chambers where clergy make laws… and where the head of state is also the head of the state religion, played each other at football. The governments of both counties are anti-democratic, corrupt, nepotistic, nuke loving and deeply unpleasant, so I could not supported either side.

    I can only support countries which respect democracy and the rights of peoples to freely self-determine. The Welsh government fits into this category, so Wales shall have my support.

    It is certainly understandable why so many Scots don’t support England’s international teams; when English politicians are trying to stop Scots freely voting in the courts / to keep Scotland under English rule against the will of its people, what else is to be expected? How on earth could anyone expect Scots to back England in this situation? It’s like asking Ukrainians to cheer on Russia.

    If there is one thing that is ‘deeply dangerous and divisive’, it is not letting people vote, but quite the opposite, it is stopping them from doing so. Sunak take heed, for the fate of the union now rests in your hands.

  15. From the northbritishman of all places.

    https://archive.ph/5H1RG

    Scottish independence: Unionists who call themselves democrats cannot deny SNP a referendum – Alastair Stewart

    • Dr Jim says:

      Another of the difficulties the British imperialists have with Scotland having democracy and choosing stuff is that they demand information on the result of a referendum if it doesn’t go their way, they demand financial certainties that they themselves lied about over Brexit, they demand answers to questions regarding the future that again they did not give correct answers on over Brexit

      The British imperialists stuck numbers on the side of a bus and swore blind those numbers were factual when those of us against their proposition knew they were lies
      They promised a Britain that would see a new and brighter future when they also knew that was a lie, they’re still promising that Brexit is the key to a wonderful future, and it’s still a lie for which they still have no intention of apologising

      They lied to 70 million people on these islands, they lied to the EU, they’re still lying, and when the SNP present the nearest estimates possible on predictions of the future of and independent Scotland these same British imperialists will lie in their rebuttals of them, and not one soul in these British isles is able to vote them out of office because they’re lying right now about their mandate to be the government of these 4 great nations, three out of 4 of our nations did not vote for them, only England did

      So when the British imperialists compare Brexit to Scottish independence they’re using the lie of a false narrative, there is no equivalency to make over the issue
      With Scottish independence Scotland will control it’s own future, with Brexit neither Scotland Wales or the North of Ireland had or have any choice in any decision made or to be made so cannot affect a difference in futures, only the government in England controls that and they still since the 2016 vote on Brexit have refused point blank to even discuss the matter with any of the other 3 great nations, they’re answer? the people voted and it’s done

      So how dare they question Scots and Scotland on our future when they refused to listen to any of us before, and they still don’t listen, they lie and lie and lie, so one future is very clear for Scotland we’ll never have to see our country used as a pawn in an English political ideological battle with itself

      We’ll be out of it because we got independence done

  16. Braemartian says:

    One minor pedantic point; baronets are hereditary but they are not peers and have never been entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

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