So when Strathclyde tells Total Politics magazine today that he thinks the chances of Lords reform succeeding are “50/50″ it is worth paying attention. He adds: “We have always said that the Lords is not going to be reformed with a proper electoral mandate unless there is a consensus between the parties…if Labour supports the legislation it will go through and we will have elections in 2015.”
Strathclyde also made the 50/50 comment in the FT a few weeks ago in an interview where he said that using the Parliament Act to force through the reforms amounted to a “nuclear option” – not exactly an endorsement of the idea.
Strathclyde knows perfectly well that Labour’s current plan is to let the legislation through the House of Commons in the next Parliamentary session but then sit back as Labour peers join forces with coalition rebels in the upper House to rip it apart. Senior Tory ministers have been genuinely taken aback by the vociferous hostility to the plan from the back benches.
The Telegraph suggests today that the plans could be “watered down” in an attempt to try to reassure sceptical backbench Tories, many of which are thoroughly opposed to the reforms.
One change would ensure the primacy of the Commons over the Lords. (Which is eminently sensible and should have been in the original plans.) The other would make sure that peers did not represent the same parliamentary constituencies (although no one has ever suggested they would….the existing plans suggested regional lists, not constituencies.)
So far, so modest. For the diehard Tory MPs opposed to the reforms there will make little or no difference and a rebellion is almost certain when the plans enter the House of Commons. It may turn out that Strathclyde’s assessment is optimistic.