The Lib Dem Lords Paradox
There was no election for the House of Lords last week, obviously, so no surprise to wake up to on that front, but that doesn’t mean there’s no surprise at all. The numbers of the House of Lords are as follows:
The difference between the crossbench and the non-affiliated peers is that crossbenchers have a convenor, who briefs them on what’s going on; the non-affiliated peers really are individuals on their own. There are other lords who aren’t there: those that don’t go because they’re members of the judiciary or because they have taken a leave of absence (e.g. Conrad Black). One peer remains suspended, Lord Hanningfield: he went to prison for abusing his expense allowance and served a quarter of his sentence. Michael Ashcroft remains to the world Lord Ashcroft, despite his resignation from the house prior to the election. He’s entitled to do so, there’s status left in titles, though less than there ever was.
There is not one SNP peer; the party wants the Lords abolished. Mind you, Cameron might become more sympathetic to the Sturgeon view. Before the election, the coalition of Tories and Lib Dems formed the largest block in the Lords; now the Tories can’t count on even a third of the house. Cameron could make a large number of new peers – that’s what Blair did after 1997 – but until he does so, or something else changes, Labour and the Lib Dems could unite to hold up legislation passed on from the House of Commons. The irony involved in that alliance might prove too difficult for its members to go along with. And how can the Lib Dems in the House of Lords carry on anyway? The party that’s made a point of demanding constitutional reform and an elected House of Lords now has a presence in the unelected second chamber more than ten times its presence in the elected House of Commons. How do they justify that?