Former Liberal Democrat Campaigns Guru Chris Rennard writes today for Liberal Democrat Voice about the Labour shenanigans in the House of Lords over the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. In a nutshell, this Bill has to get through Parliament quickly in order for the fairer votes referendum on 5th May.
His article makes fascinating reading. I particularly liked the anecdote about Labour Peer Tommy McAvoy - Chris found out that he'd only spoken 4 words in the entire 4 years of his time in the Commons, yet on this Bill alone has spoken 77 times.
It just shows up how Labour old timers are doing their best to derail one of the most significant constitutional changes and deny people their say - and Chris shows that their tactics have the blessing of their leaders in the Lords. What's completely bizarre is that the AV referendum was actually in Labour's manifesto.
Party President Tim Farron weighed in on this a couple of weeks ago, saying:
"Labour peers are holding the democratic process hostage by blocking any progress of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.
“Ed Miliband has spoken of a new way of doing politics but the tricks employed by Labour peers are the worst example of petty party politics.
“Their claims of scrutiny are completely undermined by their own pantomime performance in the House.
“It is time Ed Miliband showed some leadership and took control of his party. the people should be allowed to have a say on their voting system and this blockade by unelected Labour has-beens of the referendum Labour committed itself to in its manifesto must end.”
For once it wasn't Tim's words that was the most exciting thing about that article. It was the list of the sorts of amendments Labour had tabled on the Bill. It kind of reminded me of the "delete all and replace with bollocks in big red pen", or deleting every second letter in a motion so that you ended up with a sentence calling for the Chair to be sent to Manchester that you used to get at LDYS Conferences, although with less maturity. This is it here:
Mark Pack wrote the other day that crossbenchers were becoming irritated by Labour's games, which seem particularly puerile in the face of Government attempts to move this forward by listening to genuine concerns.
It would be an outrage if unelected Labour old timers were able to prevent people having their say on how MPs are elected. If they carry on like this, they not only show themselves up, but they may well find, as Chris Rennard says, that procedures in the Lords will change, to prevent members behaving like this in this way in the future.