Denis MacShame

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Denis MacShane’s article on the evils of the government’s proposals for Lords reform is, to be charitable, a little confused. Let’s get this straight:

So why, then, will I go into the opposition lobby next week? It is over the proposal to tear up more than seven centuries of history and require MPs to sit rather than stand to vote. The Government wants MPs to take a multiple-choice exam on its proposals to reform the House of Lords. Instead of MPs voting in lobbies for or against different proposals, scratch cards will be handed out, which we can take away to list in order of preference what the composition of the Lords might be.

Don’t you think it says a lot about the Labour Party that one of its most senior MPs regards the “innovation” of a ballot paper as tantamount to a “scratchcard”? Makes you think about how much they value your vote and indeed the whole democratic process, doesn’t it?

Also, how do you square his “deeply held” belief that such an innovation would “tear up more than seven centuries of history” with his claim that “All my political life, I have argued that a smaller, elected chamber is the only way forward.” So, changing the way the Commons votes ONCE is too great a step, but fundamentally altering the way the Lords is composited is fine?

He seems to have barely read the White Paper, claiming that it would lead to the British second chamber to “grow like topsy” when in fact it proposes cutting the size of the Lords. Perhaps not to the extent that he would like, but a cut (by one third no less) is still a cut.

(I could extend this point to Vernon Bogdanor’s piece on Lords reform in the Telegraph yesterday. Quoting approvingly from John Major is always a fraught with danger, and citing his statement “If the answer is more politicians, you are asking the wrong question,” when the White Paper proposes reducing them is particularly foolish).

A lot of politicians appear to be imagining up all sorts of “principled” reasons for throwing out the government’s proposals before even getting a chance to vote on them. The bottom line is, if you want a fully elected second chamber, the free vote next month is your best and last chance to do it for a generation. Moaning about scratchcards is pathetic beyond belief. It makes them sound like they have become so completely institutionalised in Parliament that if they were released into the real world, they’d quickly starve to death.

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