Leading democratic reform group Unlock Democracy has written to all Conservative MPs today (25 June) to ask them to support Conservative Party 2001, 2005 and 2010 manifesto commitments and back the House of Lords Reform Bill. It is expected to be published later this week.
The letter points out the “numerous times” in which Conservative governments have apparently been at the forefront of reform, from the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act and 1867 Second Reform Act through to the 1818 and 1928 Representation of the People Acts which gave women the right to vote. On each occasion, the government of the day faced entrenched backbench opposition.
“For some Conservative MPs, this Bill represents a constitutional change too far,” said Peter Facey of Unlock Democracy.
But he insisted that “there is a silent majority within the party, particularly amongst those newer MPs to Westminster, who recognise that it is increasingly indefensible to have unelected and unaccountable Peers, appointed for life to a legislative body, on the basis of party patronage, for which they can claim hundreds of pounds a day just for turning up”.
The organisation also criticised the Labour Party’s apparent decision to join right-wing Tory backbenchers in opposing the bill.
“Labour’s record in reforming the House of Lords in government was one of repeated missed opportunities,” said Facey. “The coalition government’s proposals are almost identical to the ones brought forward by Jack Straw. Failing to back these proposals now may buy them some narrow partisan advantage but will only damage their reputation in the eyes of most voters, who overwhelmingly back this reform.”
He insisted, “It is time for Ed Miliband to prove he has the statesmanlike qualities he will need were he ever to become Prime Minister”.