Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Intriguing times...

As the Lords positions itself for another set-to with the Commons, once again we are left wondering where this is all going to go and whether there are ulterior motives behind it.

Peers are currently systematically changing parts of the Government's "anti-terror" Bill, and it could mean there are some tense moments later when someone finally decides to give in. I am hoping that the Government will allow the 12 month sunset clause that has just been voted through.

I've been watching the debate in the Lords for a couple of hours now on the Parliamentlive website and I've been very impressed with the way the Lords are dealing with it in a restrained, careful and thoughtful way. The quality of debate is much higher, and the atmosphere of civility is much better than the rubbish that generally passes for "scrutiny" in the Commons. If this episode ultimately achieves nothing, at least it will help in highlighting the flaws of the whipping system once more, in terms of how little opprtunities for genuine scrutiny it allows.

In that respect, the Lords is performing much better than the Commons these days. It's a strange situation that our elected representatives, supposedly the best we have to offer given that the people want them there, can be such a waste of time and money; and those who are the chums of party leaders, or even those 96 who did favours for the monarch many generations ago, can be the ones performing the most admirably in defending our way of life.

There are rumours floating around that if the Bill gets lost this evening, with the Lords refusing to give way, the government could decide to call a snap election entirely on the issue of security. I was already predicting an atrocious election campaign in April and May, but this would be beyond my worst fears. The scaremongering would be disgraceful, and the debate would be even more reduced to clich├ęs than normal.

Having said that, I hope the Lords can give Blair and chums a bloody nose tonight. The Lords must not give in unless the concessions offered are genuine. The Lords are no fools, and they will not roll over unless the Government offers serious amendments. We will soon see.

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