» house of lords ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Trend piece – ‘Buzzword, buzzword, buzzword. Isn’t the buzzword on your mind now? Perhaps it is on other people’s minds? Read on or you’ll be clueless, dated, and without any friends in the world. Buzzword again!’
The by-election in the House of Lords – Nicholas Whyte collects the statements of the candidates.
How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics – Fascinating look back at the political culture of 1987.
The Rules of Enragement – Why some professional troll pieces do better than others.
After the ‘No’: Constitutional Reform must not be by the Elites for the Elites – “The irony of this whole process is that political class have provoked a crisis that exposes the anti-democratic features of the previously dominant British political tradition. Their response is to try to control the process of reform in order to protect their shared vest interest in preserving the Westminster model.”

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Following some of the links from the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen, I found this post by Richard Morris suggesting names for potential new Lib Dem members of the House of Lords.

As I’ve stated many times before, I’d like to see the House of Lords replaced with an elected chamber – it’s the 21st century, I think we’re in a position where the British people should elect their own Parliament – but as reactionaries and opportunists in other parties happily conspire to prevent that from happening, we remain with a house of patronage. As a result, it looks like Nick Clegg will get to name fifteen people to the Lords (and for this post, I’m not going to open up the can of worms that’s the party’s Interim Peers Panel)

However, I noticed something in Richard’s post that of the 14 potential new peers he suggests, only three are women. This isn’t to single out Richard – I’m sure most Lib Dems when asked to come up with a similar list would come up with a similarly male list of the great, good, worthy and safely uncontroversial – but if there’s one thing the benches in the Lords aren’t short of at the moment, it’s men. Looking at the list of peers on the party website, there are 94 Lib Dem peers, of whom 66 are men and 28 are women (those figures do include Jenny Tonge). In terms of representing women, that’s slightly better than Have I Got News For You, but still pretty poor when compared to reality.

Assuming that Clegg doesn’t take the attitude that the best way to win the game of House of Lords appointments is to not play and appoint no new peers, why not take a bold approach and announce a list of fifteen women? It would still leave the party’s representation in the Lords well short of equality – but another list of fifteen would bring that close – but it would be a statement that if we do have to have an unelected chamber, the party is committed to making it representative. I could quite easily come up with a list of fifteen Lib Dem women who’d all make very good peers, so surely it’s not beyond the ability of Nick Clegg and his advisers to come up with one?

Doing that would be a way of making the statement that the Liberal Democrats are still committed to doing politics differently, and I expect it would serve as a way of making us look very different from the sort of list that Cameron and Miliband are likely to propose for their parties. And for anyone complaining about positive discrimination, it’s quite clear from the list of existing Lib Dem peers that there’s clearly been discrimination in favour of men over the years, and this is a chance to show that we’re not going to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

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Via Jennie, Michael Crick on how many new peers need to be appointed to make the House of Lords representative of the votes cast at the last election.

It’s an absurd number, but then it’s part of an absurd system where people get appointed to jobs for life on the whim of the Prime Minister of the day to serve in half of the legislature of a country that’s ostensibly democratic.

One thing from it stood out for me though, from David Cameron’s interview in the House Magazine:

I think it’s important to keep refreshing the talent in the House of Lords

I can think of a system that would allow the upper house of Parliament to actually be refreshed on a regular basis. It would ensure that anyone who’s been in their for a long period could be replaced, or if they wanted to stay on, they’d have to prove that they could still do the job to a large number of independent people. The number of members of the house could be fixed, and over a period of time, the whole place could be refreshed without having to resort to the anti-democratic absurdity of needing to appoint people.

But then if he really did believe in refreshing the Lords, he wouldn’t have allowed the reforms to create a democratic Lords to disappear. Yet again, Cameron’s actions show his real priorities, not his words.

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It’s Monday, and so it’s time for a new week of silly proposals from obscure Tory MPs. First there’s Michael Fabricant batting his eyes enticingly at UKIP, and then there’s this as well: (via)

For individuals aged under 25 who have not yet paid National Insurance contributions for a certain period, perhaps five years, unemployment benefit should be in the form of a repayable loan. An unemployed teenager would still receive the same amount of cash as now, for example, but they would be expected to repay the value once in work.

Like many proposals from the nuttier fringes of the Tory party, it reads like a parody – it’s not enough for the poor to be poor, let’s put them in debt to the state as well! – and the information at the bottom of the piece left me just as confused:

Chris Skidmore is MP for Kingswood, and a member of the Free Enterprise Group.

The name, the constituency, the ‘Free Enterprise Group’ – they all sound like things that could exist in Britain and the Tory Party, but do they actually exist? Is Skidmore just the Richard Geefe of the Tory right, perhaps Craig Brown sneaking something under the radar?

Apparently, no. Like James Delingpole, and so much else that passes for ‘commentary’ at the Telegraph, it’s entirely and depressingly genuine.

But it got me thinking – how hard would it be for someone to create an entirely fake MP and get people (including the media) to believe they were real? Kingswood, for instance, is one of those generic-sounding names that could be anywhere in the country (it’s actually to the north of Bristol), but if an article told you that it’s author was the MP for Queensbridge, for instance, would you question it? After all, there are 650 MPs, and who can remember all of them and their constituencies? Then if your fake MP was spotted, you could always invent a fake Lord to take their place – even political obsessives can’t name more than a handful of crossbench peers – though that is a trick that someone else has tried to pull recently. (But then again, surely Christopher Monckton is a parody that’s gone out of control?)

And finally, if you’ve had your fill of Parliament, you could always try setting up a fake Council. The 1974 Local Government Act gave us lot of names that can fool even the most experienced geographer – Vale Of White Horse, Three Rivers, Dacorum, Adur – as well as a lot of Mids, Wests, Easts, Souths and Norths, so it should be easy enough to come up with a name. Of course, there’s no chance of the media paying any attention to you, no matter what you do, unless you find some way to make them think you’re actually a London borough. Still, you’ll likely get lots of invites to attend and speak at Really Important Conferences.

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There are many obvious reasons to be glad that Donald Trump’s not British, not least the fact that it gives us another reasons to be dismissive of American politics and pretend ours are somehow better, but one specific one occurs to me.

Look at it this way: Donald Trump is a rich man who’s involved in politics and is known to give money to causes he supports. If he was British, he’d be free to give as much money as he likes to political parties – we can probably assume he’d be a Tory, at least initially – and wouldn’t be limited by any of those pesky donation limits that sometimes apply in American politics.

Now, one curious fact about British politics is that people who make large donations (or loans) to political parties are very often the same people who are appointed to the House of Lords. This, of course, is a total coincidence, and there’s no formal connection between being a major donor to a political party and a recipient of favours from that party. However, coincidences do occur, and any British Donald Trump could very possibly find himself becoming Baron Trump of Trumplandia. So, unlike in the US, where his attempts to achieve powerful political positions have failed because of the lack of interest from the electorate in giving him that power, here he’d likely find himself granted a powerful position for life.

So be glad he’s American, because while our House of Lords contains no end of strange people that we can’t remove from power, at least none of them are Donald Trump.

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Warning: contains a double dose of tactical nuclear bastard.

The 24 types of Libertarian – Cut out and use as a game of bingo in certain comments threads. (via)
Liberal – but not so democratic in the Lords – James Graham looks at why Lib Dem peers seem so reluctant to abolish their cushy, well-rewarded sinecures and proposes a radical suggestion.
My ‘yes’ campaign hell – I’m thinking of compiling a book featuring all the post-referendum reports from Yes To Fairer Votes staffers, entitled How Not To Run A Campaign. This is James Graham’s chapter.
Illiberal conference: Blog post roundup and things you can do – Zoe O’Connell on the way the party has acquiesced in allowing police vetting of delegates to Conference, and how to protest about it.
Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors – Lots of useful tips in there, even if some of them are contradictory. (via)

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But who will be eaten first?

The House of Lords by numbers – interesting data on how many Lords of different parties have been appointed in the last few years.
The Poisonous Drivel of Dr Denis MacShane MP – A Labour MP and the Daily Mail conspire in quoting something out of context to disparage the work of a feminist academic? Hands up anyone not surprised by this latest attempt to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. (via)
The People’s Pledge campaign: More lies, irrelevancies and distortions from the British EU referendum campaign – Luckily, Nosemonkey doesn’t get tired of pointing out all the times when people get things wrong about the EU. Contains more refutations of spurious factoids than you’ll find in most newspapers.
China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work – Welcome to the future. It’s written by Charles Stross, but just be glad they didn’t use that part of his work that features the Elder Gods.
Humor from historians – A fully peer-reviewed joke.

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