Mowlam tries to stop revolt against 'House of Cronies'

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Indy Politics

Labour is attempting to head off a damaging grassroots revolt at next week's annual conference over its plans to fill a reformed House of Lords with appointed representatives or "Tony's cronies."

Labour is attempting to head off a damaging grassroots revolt at next week's annual conference over its plans to fill a reformed House of Lords with appointed representatives or "Tony's cronies."

Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Office Minister, has taken the unusual step of writing to Labour delegates to persuade them that an elected House of Lords would be a mistake.

Labour chiefs fear that they could lose a crucial vote at conference on the House of Lords forcing them to change party policy and accept a 50 per cent elected second chamber for their election manifesto.

In her letter to delegates Ms Mowlam says that a House of Lords with a majority of elected members could lead to "constitutional gridlock" with the House of Commons.

The minister, who chairs the party's commission on democracy and citizenship, says: "We can't assume that a Labour majority in the Commons would be matched by a Labour majority in an elected or largely elected second chamber."

She said that appointment would make it easier to ensure that more women and ethnic minorities gained seats in the House of Lords.

The campaign to cut down on the number of appointed peers has gained support in recent weeks and is backed by prominent Labour figures including Lord Hattersely, Tony Robinson and Melvyn Bragg.

Damien Welfare, of the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House, said: "The fact that Millbank has taken this unusual step demonstrates that they know there is a good chance that party conference will vote for the democratic option. "Unlike under the old procedures, there is no opportunity for compromise at Conference, and there must be a vote. This shows that they realised the extent to which we were gaining ground."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Labour are forming a new policy making process so delegates need to know the process in advance. This is a debate that is going on in the party. The policy documents that come out of conference will form the basis of the manifesto."

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