No point beating about the bush, if you want to find several handfuls of Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians who I think are wrong just look to the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords. That’s where, as today’s news showed, there is a very large minority opposed to introducing elections for the upper house.
Despite Lords reform having been a long-standing Liberal Democrat (and before that both SDP and Liberal Party) policy, despite the party being in a coalition committed to Lords reform (a pretty remarkable opportunity when you consider the Conservative Party’s traditional view), despite Liberal Democrat party leaders having (perhaps I need to add “supposedly”) made willingness to back reform one of the criteria for appointing people to the Lords, far too many Liberal Democrat peers are massing to join the ranks of those who don’t see a need for democracy in half of Parliament despite the powerful arguments in favour of reform from the likes of Tom McNally and Paul Tyler.
Yet no-one can hold them accountable for this volte-face. There are and will continue to be many heated debates over the votes our MPs have chosen to make since going into coalition – but the MPs can be held accountable, both by party members and the public. But if you think a peer has got it wrong, there is nothing a party member or a member of the public can do. Tough. Under current rules, regardless of what they do politically, they have their seat forever. The very fact that no-one can hold Lib Dem peers accountable for their views on Lords reform is in itself a very good reason for Lords reform.
So it’s no wonder there’s already plenty of chatter amongst Liberal Democrat members about motions to conference and the like. The internal politics of this may yet turn out rather well for Nick Clegg given how popular Lords reform is with a large majority of party activists. But if you also want to try to persuade our peers to change their minds, sign up on Facebook to Liberal Democrats for Lords Reform.