Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ninety-one against Nick - and Dave

Mark Pack points out the effect that the Tory rebellion will have in the Lords, as well as in the Commons.  Incidentally, he says that the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the Lords. This is technically true, but a considerable number of the hundred and eighty-eight cross-bench peers are conservative, even if not Conservative.

As to the withdrawal of support for the constituency boundary review, there is conflicting evidence as to the feelings on the Conservative benches. Sir Menzies Campbell said on the radio yesterday that many of the Conservative MPs he had spoken to were secretly relieved that the cut in number of seats was not going ahead. On the other hand, Guido Fawkes states that even Tories who would see their constituencies disappear altruistically regret that the chop will be deferred as a result of the parliamentary LibDems' decision.

Myself, I believe that the case for getting closer to equal numbers of electors is strong, in view of the anomalies which exist, especially in Wales. However, the reduction of constituencies to six hundred, a figure which was either plucked out of the air as a nice round number or one which gave the Conservatives the best chance of profiting from redistribution, is more debatable. The constituency median size which it produces leads inevitably to geographical anomalies and perhaps the enforced pause will enable the numbers to be looked at again.

Tory opponents of the government stress the link in the coalition agreement to the AV referendum. It cannot be stressed enough that AV is not Liberal Democrat policy. It originated in the Labour Party (see the writings of Peter Hain) and was introduced into coalition talks by Gordon Brown, when it was described by Nick as a miserable little compromise. Nick overstated the case, and it is hard to see how AV found its way into an agreement with the Conservatives, nor why he was in such a hurry to conduct the referendum. The referendum campaign itself was cross-party and organised by an ex-Labour apparatchik. Labour itself turned round and used the referendum as a vote against the budget cuts.

While we are on the subject of hypocrisy, it is a bit rich for the media to complain about the amount of time the coalition partners have been spending on Lords reform when they themselves have blown the disagreements out of all proportion. We certainly should be spending more time correcting lack of fairness in the benefits system. So why are we not seeing more front pages dedicated for instance to the wrongs committed by private companies implementing the Work Capability Assessment? Presumably the Labour-supporting papers do not wish to recall that Labour introduced ATOS and WCA in the first place, while the others regard all claimants as cheating the taxpayer.

No comments: