Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Last week the wash-up of the local elections continued as the nation prepared for the Queens speech in which the coalition government would reveal what it had in store for us in the second half of its term.

Martin Kettle’s analysis of the speech summed it up well, when he suggested that Cameron’s struggling to send a clear message to the nation about the coalition is for.

It’s true, his narrative is unclear and to an extent it is imbued with his Lib Dem partners, a stage he would rather not share.

Kettle’s analysis, which you can read here, suggested that the coalition is now at loggerheads. He wrote: ‘As a consequence the larger liberal conservative project that arguably framed the first year of the coalition is far harder to discern now. Indeed it would be difficult to say that the coalition now has any distinct project beyond economic stability and the government’s survival. Not that these are unimportant. But all the coalition’s eggs are suddenly in this one frayed basket – a far cry from the earlier strong sense that it had a vision of the kind of Britain it sought to build.’

Last week Cameron and Clegg hot footed it to Basildon to tell us what they had planned for us going forward. It was designed to reassure a nation which, as the election results the previous week indicated is resolutely unsure of this coalition.

But their meeting in a factory seemed strained and tired. There was no banter and the bonhomie had disappeared.

Body language expert, Peter Collett wrote a brilliant piece pointing out the body language between the two men. Cameron using strong hand gestures to signal to the nation he is in control.

Clegg also revealed more than he realised. Collett writes: ‘While he gave Cameron lots of attention and nodded in all the right places, a look at his feet showed his weight was often on the foot furthest from the PM. Consciously, he was being supportive, but his body was secretly trying to distance him from Cameron.’

As politicians this is something we must be constantly aware of, our every move is scrutinised; one wrong move can have significant consequences. And make no mistake- it will always be noted. Read Collett’s article in full here.

Yesterday Toby Helm wrote in the Observer that ‘Ed Miliband is in a strong position to secure an outright majority at the next election, according to a new opinion poll that analyses the views and voting intentions of recent converts to Labour.’

Helm wrote: ‘The YouGov survey for the Fabian Society shows that “Ed’s converts” – people who didn’t vote Labour in 2010 but currently back the party – are made up mostly of disgruntled left-wing Liberal Democrats, many so disillusioned that they are very unlikely to vote for Nick Clegg‘s party again.

‘About 75% of the converts – who have helped Miliband and Labour open an eight-point lead over the Tories in the poll – are former Lib Dems, 18% are ex-Tory supporters, and 7% are former supporters of other parties or people who did not vote in 2010.’

As always Miliband, rightly, remains cautious but optimistic. He believes we must build, among other things, a deep allegiance and he is right, and as he says there’s still lots of work to be done.

Reform of the House of Lords?

Labour Party

Following yesterday’s  pomp and circumstance, what could be more apt than considering the promised reform of that most august institution, host to the state opening of parliament, the House of Lords itself? (By the way, did you know peers have to pay £125 a go to hire their ridiculous robes?)

The Queen’ Speech was sadly light on Lords reform; all we got was reform of the House of Lords may be included in a separate draft bill later in the year.  Not exactly promising, and I believe changes to the House of Lords/upper house will  be, and may already have been, the scene of coalition tension, a sticking point with tons of glue, difficult, if not impossible, to resolve.

We all know that reform of the House of Lords is a Lib-Dem rather than a Tory demand.  Indeed, the Conservatives have in the past voted to keep an all appointed upper chamber.  The Coalition at present has a notional majority of 50 in the House of Lords, assuming all Tory and Lib-Dems Lords vote with the government, very big ask indeed, especially for the Tories.

However, it’s the plans to create another 100 peers which set alarm bells ringing.  The Con-Dems are justifying it on the grounds that the House of Lords should reflect the voting intention at the general election.  This has never been the case, and is, in any event not sustainable over the long term in a chamber where members are appointed for life.  The idea of reflecting general election intentions also flounders on the issue of where do the bishops and cross benchers fit into the equation.

So, what is the real motive behind the Coalition’s desire to create of 100 new peers?  It seems to me it could go either way, for or against the promised reform to make the House of Lords either wholly or largely elected.  And therein lies the rub.  The new peers could either do what the Lib-Dems want and support radical change or they could do what very many Conservative want and keep things as they are.       

As yet we don’t know whether the new peers will be ennobled as Cameron/Clegg’s Lloyd George moment when the very threat in 1909 of creating enough peers to get the People’s Budget through the upper house was enough to bring their noble lords to heel, or used to throw out reform all together.

Clegg  obviously sees see this wheeze as following in the footsteps of the man who knew our fathers, who, in my view, was one of the most radical prime ministers this country has ever seen.  Cameron, I suspect, views creating 100 new peers, the majority of whom will, of course be Conservative, as a way of keeping his foot soldiers happy.  These new peers could destroy any attempt to reform the House of Lords.  What better way of stifling change than by restoring the House of Lords to its former Conservative glory before the hereditary peers went, and thereby ensuring the Tory majority votes down all plans to make the House of Lords wholly, or even largely, elected.