The tension between accountability and leadership


skynews-house-of-lords-lords_4143387Responding to the opinion of the taxpayers who fund the whole of a very costly Parliament is something that all Politicians should take seriously. Equally responding to powerful members of your political party makes sense to those who support tribal politics as does ensuring that one has the tactical power to get your own way in decision making. Finally there is the challenge over the words and promises you have made in the past. If all of these views line up, then the tension goes and in one sense there is no difficulty in expressing leadership. However when these things are at odds, in some cases extreme odds then leadership becomes much harder:

Rees MoggThe Powerful Tribal Spokesman – its tough for Theresa because Jacob has always voted against the reform of the Lords, and yet he has called on the Lords to behave themselves in the way he believes they should whenever they have voted against his opinion. Back in January when he sensed that elements of the Brexit legislation would be challenged by the Upper House he argued “If the House won’t play by the constitutional rule book, then the PM has to use the extra measures available to her it could be a couple of hundred” So Jacob’s ideal as Chairman of the European Research Group is for 200 new Tory Peers to be created.

opinionPublic Opinion – the Electoral Reform Society recently carried out a survey to gauge our views and overall 60% of people questioned are opposed to any increase and a mere 9% are supportive of more Peers. Of those opposed 59% are Tory supporters and 63% are Labour supporters. Altogether 79% think the Lords is already too large and 18% think it is about right (so presumably 3% are in favour of it getting larger!). A report carried out last October suggested the size of the Lords should drop to 600 (it is currently nearly 800) and perhaps most important in terms of the ERS is that they believe the public are tired and sceptical about the packing out of the Lords with Party Donors and Ex-MPs, which is at odds with the view from the House of Commons who are not against MPs being elevated to the Lords but oppose Civil Servants being promoted at any cost!

Theresa and JeremyThe views of Theresa and Jeremy are supposed to be relatively consistent. Back in August 2016 days after taking over the management of her party, Theresa made it clear that she intended to end “gongs for mates” and that following the departure of Cameron she would “do things differently”. By the same token and at the same time Corbyn argued that the honours made by Cameron had put “a nail in the coffin” of the House of Lords and he pledged to replace the Upper Chamber with an elected House if he became Prime Minister.

Late on Friday night as the nation prepared to enjoy the FA cup or Wedding of Harry and Meghan or indeed plan shopping trips, Theresa was hard at work announcing her decision to compromise between the views of powerful people like Jacob Rees-Mogg along with the maths of the House of Lords with her own view and that of the public. A side issue was that of Jeremy Corbyn who should in my view have denied names to May or at best nominated people from outside of the Political Parties. As a result of the 13 new Peers, there are now going to be 793 Peers in the House. These are 253 Tory Peers, 235 Non Affiliated, Crossbench and Bishop Peers, 190 Labour Peers, 98 Lib Dem Peers, 4 DUP Peers and the balance cover a range of parties or roles.  It would appear that despite going against the public and against Theresa and Jeremy’s own opinions, that the 13 Peers will not change the overall leverage in the House of Lords. Equally Theresa has fallen a long way short of the 200 proposed by Jacob Rees-Mogg. It appears that her decision and that of Jeremy fell well between the cracks.

The nine new Tory Peers included Sir Eric Pickles, Peter Lilley, Sir Edward Garnier, Sir John Randall, Sir Alan Haselhurst and Andrew Tyrie, all six of whom were former MPs. None of the Labour Peers are ex MPs but William McCrea is a former DUP MP.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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