Monday, September 10, 2012

Nick Clegg conceded too much to the opponents of Lords' reform

In the course of a characteristically sparky performance in the Commons last week, making a statement on House of Lords reform and answering questions, Nick Clegg uttered said something that worried me:
For now, the immediate decision for the Government is how we fill the gap in the legislative timetable. We will bring forward measures to promote growth—the Government’s priority and my priority—and the Prime Minister and I will shortly be announcing details of that package.
This seemed to constitute a tacit acceptance that it was foolish to pursue reform of the House of Lords at a time when the economy is in such a poor state.

The truth, of course, is that all governments are doing many different things at any one time. It is perfectly possible to reform the Lords while giving the economy all the time it needs.

But it worried me for a deeper reason. Hasn't the Liberal and Liberal Democrat case always been that our economic malaise is closely connected with our flawed constitution and politics? I was sure that if I searched this blog I would find a senior Lib Dem making just the case.

Well, I searched it and did found just that. What I did not expect was that the person making the case would be Nick Clegg himself.

Here is the start of a House Points column I wrote for Lib Dem News in January 2009:
Is concern about accountability and democracy a luxury at a time of economic crisis? That was the question Nick Clegg asked the audience at Portcullis House, Westminster, on Tuesday night. 
He was speaking at an event marking 20 years of the campaign group Charter 88. Now part of Unlock Democracy, Charter 88 was set up to campaign for constitutional and electoral reform. A book – Unlocking Democracy: 20 Years of Charter 88 – has also been produced for the anniversary. 
Nick’s answer was clear: “An economic crisis is a political crisis as well.” He argued that this government’s mismanagement of the economy is directly related to our unreformed constitution. A winner-takes-all electoral system encourages a cycle of boom and bust and makes it too easy for the policy agenda to be captured by vested interests such as the City. 
A more pluralist system would have forced the government to listen to a wider range of voices. Better still, it would have forced it to listen to Vince Cable.
I don't know if that last point was in the speech or was dropped in by me, but Nick was right in 2009 and his argument holds just as true today.

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1 comment:

Kimpatsu said...

Isn't it blindingly obvious? Clegg is just as much an opportunist as the rest of them, and looks forward to beign bumped up to ermine after the next general election. His principled defence of Lords reform has been abandonded and replaced with naked self-interest. Just like all the other 650 (approx.) lying bastards on the green benches.