Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Is Labour bluffing on Lords reform?

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Is Labour really going to reform the House of Lords? The party has ended up in a bit of a pickle over abolishing a chamber that it also wants to stuff with its own peers. The party’s spokesman yesterday told journalists that there was still a plan to create a Labour majority in the Lords because it was ‘essential’ for the party to be able to get its business through the Upper Chamber. The party’s leader in the Lords, Angela Smith, also told Times Radio that ‘there are 90 more Conservatives than Labour. The priority for Keir will be ensuring he gets the Labour programme through.’

It isn’t mutually exclusive for a party committed to House of Lords reform to want to start out with more peers in the Lords while that Chamber exists. What is striking, though, is how few senior Labourites, even those tasked with working on this, privately think Starmer will get anywhere close to doing what he says he wants to with the Lords. One told me recently that ‘this is absolutely not going to happen. There is a reason it hasn’t happened yet’. The question is why Starmer would want to spend parliamentary time, effort and political capital on something that the public aren’t particularly worked up about and which will cause ructions, even within his own party. 

Promising to abolish the House of Lords does have the benefit of sounding like anti-establishment politics, which does help someone who focus group participants still think is a ‘Sir’ because of inherited wealth rather than public service. But pursuing a reform which ends up failing doesn’t really help anyone.

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