Alex Deane is a public affairs consultant.
Many members of the Lords have plainly taken it upon themselves to seek to stymie the result of our referendum on our membership of the European Union.
That this is wholly wrong is plainly evident – imagine them doing so if they result had been the other way around!
Their role is not to seek to change our national course in this way. Certainly, the Lords has the right to ask the Commons to think again; but it doesn’t have the right to ask the people to do so. They can send Bills back to the Commons for reconsideration; there is no procedure for this unelected chamber to tell us to reconsider once we have voted in a referendum. With their latest amendments, they are doing just that.
This posturing by our peers may make them feel much better – perhaps even feeling safe in their pro-EU virtue signalling because the elected House will overrule them in the end: but, with many provisions to be made and a ticking Brexit clock, we don’t have the kind of time necessary to indulge them. So, unless they change their minds, we must fight back. Fortunately, I don’t think that the Government needs new legislation to do so.
Now that we have the concept of retirement in the House of Lords – the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 made provision for members’ resignation from the House – there is a perfectly plausible way to provide Lord Callanan with a cadre of shock troops to see his legislation through the Lords – backed by, say, 500 new peers.
Before these Brexit peers sign their letters patent, they would sign a letter resigning from the House of Lords to the Clerk of the Parliaments, post-dated one year hence. Once Brexit is done, so are they.
Labour and the Liberals both stuffed the Upper House with cronies to further their agenda – and did so for life, not just a year – so we needn’t heed their inevitable howling too much. It may sound outlandish, but the closer one gets to those actually involved in such processes, the more open one finds them to big bang solutions within the framework they occupy: indeed, the most robust advocates for seismic solutions I encounter are amongst the peers themselves. And as with most things in British life, I gather that there is an amusing precedent for this. When Lloyd George was happily making up peers for donations to his party, supposedly one wrote a handsome cheque to the Party, but signed in his Noble name… the cheque won’t clear until I’m a peer, as he might have said. This is the same kind of hostage signature, but the other way around.
What guarantee do we have that these new Callananites won’t go off the reservation the moment the ermine hits their shoulders, going Euro-native amongst the Kinnocks and the Heseltines? None – but we would of course select these one year peers from reliable sources. And could have fun doing so. Ten from the Vote Leave campaign. Fifty from Conservative Associations. And so on.
Of course, sometimes one doesn’t have to actually do something to motivate others, but merely hint at it. simply the threat of it may get the Lords into a more democratic frame of mind – or, sight of the first tranche of, say, a hundred new one year peers as they heave into view might do it…