Parliamentary sketch – Under starters orders – they’re off!

With the Olympic Games over (and Paralympics about to commence) the Starter’s gun has been fired for the race to win Gold in post-Olympic-credit-claiming, amongst the political classes. The Olympic “legacy” competition will be awarded to the politician who makes the best claim for ownership of the “feel good factor” and the “reflected glory” from Team GB’s Olympian successes. The rest of us can only hope that the unseemly jockeying between politicians doesn’t result in taking the shine off the Olympics itself or tarnishing the Olympic ideal.

Meanwhile, the wooden spoon in the three-legged race was comfortably won by the party leaders of Coalition Government. Virtually no-one gives even one hoot let alone two for how the House of Lords should or should not be reformed. However, it appears to have become a matter of monumentally earth shattering importance the closer you get to the insular Westminster village.

Nevertheless, the importance of retaining the integrity of the border between Cornwall and England seems to become more important the further away from the Westminster village you travel. Therefore, the exchange of handbags at five paces between party leaders could well result in a beneficial outcome for Cornwall as Liberal Democrats correctly vote down a not particularly elegant attempt by the Conservative to rig the parliamentary boundary system in their favour, leaving Cornwall with an unwelcome cross-border constituency.

I don’t disagree with the principle of having fewer MPs and more equal constituencies (especially as the St Ives constituency would rightfully benefit from reclaiming the parishes around Hayle and elsewhere) but to do it in a way that arbitrarily respects the constituency boundary of the Isles of Wight but fails to recognise the significant historic boundary around Cornwall is not one that I either have or could support.

On Lords Reform I have found myself as a lone voice in my own Party; urging colleagues to answer the question “What do we want a Second Chamber for?” before obsessing about the constitutional route its membership arrive at the place. If the House of Commons really is so inadequate that it requires a Second Chamber to do the things it is incapable of doing itself then the Second Chamber should do its utmost to avoid the weaknesses of the first. That implies that it needs independent expertise selected from a cross section of British society; people who can demonstrate a capacity to engage in sober second thought and independent scrutiny – not something that party tribalists elected on party list systems are best capable of doing.

Therefore, I am pleased with both of the outcomes from the minor tiff between the party leaders – an opportunity to rethink House of Lords reforms and the chance to protect the integrity of the Cornish border.

Whether we get a rethought through Lords Reform over the finishing line before May 2015 remains to be seen!

16th August 2012

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