Labour's reform of Lords `not enough'

Lib Dems in Glasgow

STEPHEN GOODWIN

A little reform of the House of Lords would not do, Robert Maclennan, President of the Liberal Democrats, told the conference yesterday, contrasting the party's radical constitutional agenda with Labour's faltering approach.

"Tinkering with our constitution merely creates anomalies which the public will reject," Mr Maclennan said. Only the election of more Liberal Democrat MPs could hold Labour to a programme for change.

Labour's plans for the House of Lords are limited to the early abolition of the voting rights of hereditary peers with party balance achieved by the appointment of life peers - a "super quango" in the eyes of Mr Maclennan.

Wholesale reform of the second chamber has been deferred to the next century by Labour. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile want peers replaced by senators, elected from the regions by proportional representation.

Mr Maclennan recalled that twice in his lifetime Labour had attempted constitutional reform and failed - in the 1960s on reform of the Lords and in the 1970s on Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

"The attempt and not the deed confounded them. And the attempt failed, because it was too little, not too much."

Liberal Democrats, unlike Labour, were also prepared to accept cuts in the number of MPs from Scotland consequent on the creation of an Edinburgh parliament. "To make no change in Scottish representation in Westminster is to butter your Bannock on both sides," Mr Maclennan said.

An assembly for Wales with the old voting system - as now intended by the Labour Party - would merely entrench minority rule, he said. Nor would "regional talking shops" for councillors dressed up as regional government.

Mr Maclennan was gently dismissive of Tony Blair's overture to the Lib Dems, describing it as "a kind message from a friend". He took the Labour leader's talk of increased co-operation as "merited tribute" to what the Liberal Democrats had achieved over the past year.

"Some of us quite like Tony Blair. The readiness to exchange such courtesies is a new and civilised development in British politics." Recalling the words of the Whig historian Lord Macauley, "It will soon again be necessary to reform, that we may preserve", Mr Maclennan said the great reform that the Lib Dems proposed was nothing less than a fundamental constitutional resettlement.

It would include strengthening European Union democracy and shifting executive power from Westminster to elected bodies in the national, regional and local authorities. Both Houses of Parliament would be modernised, with the final say entrusted to the public in a referendum.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Lavigne performing in Seoul at the beginning of last year
people
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst - Level 2

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of financial software so...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?