James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
My boyhood home town of Dunblane is, I think, the smallest city in Britain, on the strength of its Cathedral (of which my Father was Minister). It has been known for twenty years for the tragedy of its school gym killings; but now it can truly rejoice in its famous son, Andy Murray. If English hearts had not warmed to him previously, who could fail to have been proud of the first Wimbledon finalist in 80 years, and one who came so close; and his generous loser’s speech will have touched us all.
A triumphant Diamond Jubilee, a decent showing at Wimbledon, and now we can all look forward to the Olympics; to the fine weather which (counter-intuitively) must be near; and to hundreds of hours wasted in Parliament discussing an issue which in my thirty years of knocking on doors has never once been raised with me – namely Lords reform. What a spectacular waste of time and effort the proposed Bill is, and what a Constitutional outrage that the Coalition Government should be threatening to use every trick, bribery, blackmail and coercion to get it through a reluctant House.
The Lords does a pretty good job scrutinising and correcting the elected House’s mistakes. It’s the very fact that it’s NOT elected which allows it to do so without threatening the supremacy of the People’s Chamber in the Commons. And what they have proposed is an outrageous muddle – Senators who can be elected but not re-elected after 15 years, earning a fee which is so low as to make it attractive only to the very rich or to those with nothing else in particular to do. Unless the Liberal Democrats drop this absurd and unpopular measure into the same waste paper basket to which we collectively consigned their last silly idea – changing the voting system - then I fear that this could become a coalition-threatening issue. And if that was the case, a decreasing number of people would shed many tears over it.
Coalition was necessary two years ago because of the economic muddle which Gordon Brown bequeathed to us. It suits the LibDems very well – a touch of power, a glimpse of a red box which had been so cruelly denied to them for a hundred years. But if as a result of some imagined sleight they do indeed intend to throw their toys out of the pram, then sobeit. Let them go, and they can reapply to join in again in 100 years’ time. I do not believe that they would be so foolish. The reason they are so keen on a PR-elected Lords is because they know that they would stand a reasonable chance of commanding the balance of power in any such House, guaranteeing them some imagined toe-hold in the corridors of power for generations to come.
Well, I’m sorry Mr Clegg. Those of us, who believe that the glorious constitution of the United Kingdom is more important than any short-term political fix, will do what we can to thwart your little game. The House of Lords ain’t broke..... The Coalition just may be.
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