Lord Tebbit has become a lot more likeable, and wise, with age
It is a very odd (and completely unpatriotic) mentality that makes Nick Clegg and his Doo-Dah Band respond to electoral defeat by messing up the stuff left that they can still control. But on the NHS and Lords Reform, this is precisely what they have done. Not only that, in the case of the NHS they explicitly called it ‘an exercise in showing our supporters that we have real power’.
In today’s Telegraph blogs, one-time barely house-trained polecat and scourge of Labour Lord Tebbit has written a concise (and for Nick Clegg, devastating) critique of the undirectional drivel that is the House of Lords Reform Bill. Tebbit’s blog reads like an ageing headmaster politely explaining to a bright but destructive boy in the Lower IVth why he shouldn’t burn the school down just because he was put in detention.
Lord T lists four questions for any legislator to ask before putting pen to paper. They are are so page one for any legislator – and yet so absent from anything attempted by the Coalition – we must regrettably conclude yet again that people in senior political circles are so clever, they skip page one as being beneath them. I think Tebbit misses a fifth consideration: ‘what do we think the ramifications and negative side-effects of this legislative idea might be?’ – but in the current Peers’ context, Lord T is on the money with his opinion: I have yet to hear anyone elucidate at all what the point of Lords Reform might be. (I don’t mean I disagree with reform of the Upper Chamber – merely that I would like to know the point of this particular attempt at it).
Because we are no longer a nation wherein people think for themselves (thanks to pc education) I suspect that the Progressive Tendency – of whom Mr Clegg is an archeypal member – look at the Lords and say “It’s traditional and outdated and full of fogeys – let’s meddle with it, it’ll sound good….and earn us some younger voters”.
And that seems to be about the full extent of thought that went into it. (This, by the way, is the oldest constituted Chamber of the People in Europe or the Americas, in that technically it dates back to the Barons giving King John a slap at Runnymede in 1215.)
As a reform target, my view remains that changes to the Upper Chamber should only be attempted in the context of a package of much needed other constitutional reform: a package limiting the power of the Executive, expanding the role of MPs, offering greater power to local communities, abolishing the Whips system, and (dare I suggest) coming up with a better voting system – not simply, ‘this is the one on offer, whaddya fink?’
For me, the point of these changes would be to restrain the control freaks at the top, filter personal responsibility further down the system, and make it easier to break Party discipline. (The near impossibility of doing this last, as veteran Sloggers know all too well, I believe to be at the root of our creative sclerosis in politics.)
Under such a reform package, one would therefore want the Upper House to be a more relevant ‘check and balance’ on the Commons Executive. It doesn’t follow that they should all be elected – but it DOES in my view follow that absolutely none of them should be placed there by the vipers in the Lower House.
Nick Clegg has approached this not as a potentially enriching reform, but rather as a way to revive his deservedly flagging fortunes. He is a heartless, brainless eurocrat suit, and the sooner he inhabits only the smaller-font footnotes of history, the better we shall all be.
Another nice thing about the Tebbit blogs, by the way, is their refreshing lack of consultancy-speak and other crypto-technical gibberish. One wonders how the polecat image ever got going, and stuck to one who can so quickly spot a dog’s dinner. The answer, I suspect, is that in the 1970s he challenged the Union Barons – which was asking for trouble. But whatever one might think of his history, I’d much rather see Nick Clegg disappear into the sunset on his bike than this gently mellowing peer.