lords, Politics, Uncategorized

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime – the Lords Delivers!

I must confess.

Today I voted in one of the most bizarre elections in the world. And I voted for someone who was eligible to be a candidate because he is the great grandson of Herbert Asquith, the former British Prime Minister. I was also one of an exclusive electorate, as members of the House of Lords were the only people eligible to vote.

But the Lords are not elected, I hear you cry! That is mostly true but not when it comes to the ones that are there by birth. Yes, this was the by-election for a vacancy for a hereditary peer (see my earlier blog), and on this occasion the whole House was eligible to vote (with convention saying it ought to be a Liberal).

I voted because I thought I should, but clearly this is the Lords at its most ridiculous.

redbenchesBy contrast I also picked up a copy of the Lords internal newsletter the Red Benches. This included a story telling me that they were testing a new system of recording votes using iPads. This is so that they can record them more efficiently and publish the results more quickly.

This is a very good thing for accountability.

All Lords divisions are published and are easily searchable. The public can then see how we all voted, very soon after we did.  We have nothing to hide.

The Lords have been doing this for some time. It begs the question as to why the Commons don’t do the same…


Hereditary Peers’ By-election – Not a Silly Season Story!

On Friday, when I got home to Weymouth and opened the post, I found a House of Lords Notice. I ignored my usual irritation at the waste of money sending post rather than email, and extracted the green notice from its plastic wrapper. With great amusement I read the headline:

Hereditary Peers’ By-election

To many this may be confusing. Many would only know the Lords as an undemocratic house of Parliament made up of political life appointees, like me. Others may also think the Blair government got rid of the hereditary peers fifteen years ago. So what is this by-election, and how come those who are there by birth are also elected?

The green notice opens by saying:

“The death of Lord Methuen on 9 July 2014 has created a vacancy among the expected hereditary peers who sit in the House of Lords. Under Standing Order 10, this vacancy is to be filled by means of a by-election.”

This all goes back to the deal that was done under Lords reform back in 1999. The Labour government wanted to get rid of all the hereditary peers, but needed to persuade them to vote for their own abolition. The compromise was that 92 were allowed to remain, as long as the rest lost their seats.

Now you might think that was an elegant solution; that the Grim Reaper would then slowly reduce that number down over time until all the Hereditary Peers literally died out. But you would be wrong.

The compromise also included the deal whereby if one of the 92 passed away then their place would be filled by a by-election, hence this procedure to give someone the right to make law in this country.

So who can vote and who can stand?

“All Members of the House … are entitled to vote in this by-election.”

So that is clear, the voters are the Lords themselves and polling day is on 21st October 2014.

On who can stand, there is some boring detail but in this case:

“Those eligible to stand are all those hereditary peers whose names are listed in the register of hereditary peers wishing to stand for election as members of the House of Lords.”

So the hereditary peers were not abolished at all. The larger pool of hundreds lost their right to sit and vote but they, and their successors, are on stand by to get elected when there is a vacancy.

Which is why, in this eccentric country we know and love, the only people elected into our second house of Parliament are those that are there by birth!

PS There are also elections to Labour’s NEC. For those that are interested, I have voted for Luke Akehurst, Johanna Baxter, Crispin Flintoff, Florence Nosegbe, Ellie Reeves and Peter Wheeler


Before I get started here are some past ramblings

Last month I went to the wonderful Caribbean US city of New Orleans. What's not to like about the mix of cultures, food, drink, music, history and architecture. But just outside the French quarter I went to meet John, a friend of a friend.

I wrote about this inspirational man and his amazing story on Medium.

On the same platform a few weeks earlier I also wrote a review of the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

I am taking a break from frontline politics. I have written on a few political blogs but here is a recent few from the Labour Lords site.

For a while I have been working with another inspirational woman, Lucy Herd, who founded Jack's Rainbow after her son died in their garden pond. Our campaign for bereavement leave for parents got us as far as trying to amend the Children and Families Bill as explained here. We didn't win but ACAS will shortly issue new guidance to employers on the subject – which is progress.

I am a founder of Labour Coast and Country. The kind of issues we campaign on include how to get rural and coastal areas benefitting from the knowledge economy. The other blog the great Ian Parker published on the Labour Lords blog is my crowd sourced speech in the Lords for the anniversary of the World Wide Web.

More to come right here. Must walk the dogs.