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Lords reform may not be sexy politics but it is important


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 After the shambles of a campaign last year around the AV referendum it is easy to understand why the majority of the public are simply not interested in changing the status-quo when it comes to doing politics in this country.

Voters had a once in a lifetime opportunity to drag our dated political system into the 21st century but sent a resounding no to Nick Clegg. 

There were other major factors that can explain why the AV referendum fell on deaf ears -such as a Conservative elite who did not want to change a system that has secured them employment for generations and a divided Labour Party that should have known better. We also saw from this year's Mayoral referendums that people do not want to shake up the institutions that make decisions on their behalf.

Ignorance alone is not to blame for rejection of AV nor the rejection of city mayors, it is the way in which the media cover these votes. They are so often viewed as a 'tick-box' story that requires nothing more than a mention on an afternoon bulletin. This gives those who are against any reform the upper hand as they are able to play on fears of taxpayers money being wasted and unnecessary bureaucracy. Both of which are a constant feature in the tabloid press.

A year on from the AV referendum a like-for-like story is yet again unfolding in the corridors of Whitehall. Nick Clegg is fronting the campaign to reform the House of Lords and make its members democratically accountable. If successful it will mean that the Liberal Democrats will have something to take away from five years in a coalition with an increasingly right wing Conservative government. For many international political commentators it is frankly baffling as to why we allow an unelected group of individuals to have a say on the democratic process in twenty first century Britain. This system allows the political establishment to cherry pick those who will sit in the Upper House for purely political gain.

Within the Conservative Party backbenches there are constant threats of rebellion over the issue, with the latest comment coming from Bernard Jenkin stating that the Deputy Prime Minister will 'face a war of attrition' over his plans. Similar threats were made about the proposed changes to the electoral system and the Conservatives came out of that political spat looking like the winners. Similar murmurings are suggesting that that government should not be focusing on political reform when the economy needs to be addressed. These are the exact same reasons being given for not legislating same-sex marriages in England and Wales. To say that a government cannot have several bills going through our legislative channels at the same time completely undermines the intelligence of the public.

Clegg must be bold on this issue and not let the ghosts of the AV campaign come back to haunt him and his Lib Dem colleagues. Going with the latest polls they would suggest that the Liberal Democrats will not be sitting on the government benches again any time soon, therefore they must use this opportunity to push through these proposals. Come 2015 the party need to have shown that their ideals can be put into practice as currently they have very little to show for their time in office so far.

The Labour Party also have a crucial role to play in this as their votes in the Commons could prove to be vital in getting these proposals onto the statue book. Ed Milliband cannot let his party appear divided on this issue as did happen during the AV campaign. Any party which defines itself as being a democratic socialist movement cannot cast aside proposals to advance our democracy as being not essential.

Nick Clegg faces an up hill struggle to pass this legislation and needs to win supporters. To do so he needs to look to the opposite side of the House and make some friends. In doing so he might just salvage the little support his party currently has on the national political stage.

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