Tuesday, March 13, 2007

 

Will PM Gordon Usher in a 'Cascade of Constitutional Change'?

I recall, back in the seventies, a colleague (Michael Steed) identifying the reform of the House of Lords as the crucial key to break the log-jam faced in terms of constitutional change. Once it happened, he argued, all the other items like devolution and reforming the voting system would follow in its wake. Now Jackie Ashley suggests something similar in her Guardian piece yesterday. Whatever the Lords might say, she reckons a 337-224 vote in favour of an elected chamber means what it seems to: that such a change is destined to happen.

Her argument is that the cash for honours scandal has so discredited the appointed chamber that it has no choice but to accept the Commons' decision about its future shape. She goes on to suggest that 'we are on the edge of a major change in the constitution'. This is because firstly the new chamber cannot be elected on anything other than proportional voting, given that such a system has been de rigeur for new assemblies and secondly because the Commons will have to change too 'since MPs are unlikely to want a senate to be democratically representative than they are'.

Given an expected close election with substantial Lib Dem influence applied, then 'the chance of a cascade of constitutional change is now very high'. She concludes by suggesting that Brown will need to gear himself up sharpish to take on 'an agenda of radical change'. Her logic is persuasive but so was that of my colleague way back in the seventies when the change he predicted was still twenty years away from being achieved and then only in part. My feeling is never to underestimate the power of inertia and the conservative instincts of our rulers. But, according to Ashley, we don't have long to find out as her sources tell her Blair will announce his departure on May 10 or 11 and that Gordon(yes, that really is a picture of the young tyro) will be in Number 10 by July 5.

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