Wednesday, March 07, 2007


House of History


I’ve actually been astounded by a Parliamentary vote – and in a good way. When MPs voted by a margin of 38 for the ‘House of Lords’ to be 80% elected, I cheered, expecting no better and prepared to tolerate the compromise (welcoming the annihilation of options from ‘just 60% elected’ down). But then, only ninety-five-and-a-half years late, the House of Commons has just voted to have the ‘House of Lords’ wholly elected, and by a stonking majority of 113. This has to call into question Jack Straw’s decision to leave it with the name ‘House of Lords’. But then, seeing Mr Straw’s deathly puce face as the unwelcome tide of democracy poured through the House and swept away his own preferred option (by the largest margin!), he may not be long for this world anyway. Particularly not if Mr Blair is still in a ‘firing mood’ in his dying days.

Ironically, this most hideously authoritarian control freak of a Prime Minister will now find that the legacy defended by his apologists – the rest of us, of course, will remember him for Iraq – will consist of two significant enlargements of democracy, about one of which he was lukewarm and with the other one to which he is actively opposed: the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies (good luck today, Alliance!), and an elected second chamber. Despite Mr Blair’s opposition to the idea, he’s probably more responsible than anyone else for the vote. The appearance of sleaze around the accusations levelled against him of cash for peerages might be what tipped the vote so heavily against the power of patronage filling seats in Parliament ever again.

Still, the Lords may still vote against democracy, he must be hoping.

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been hypnotised into frittering away my afternoon watching BBC Parliament instead of carrying on with the serious business of writing Doctor Who reviews…

Steve Webb’s impeccably titled Webb Log has the full results (oh, and the BBC).

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