WE are moving into a pre-election period; how do I know this? The Government is getting a bit more nervous than usual about winning votes in the House of Lords. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to talk to the assembled Government Front Bench and happily did so. However, what emerged was a very definite perception that the crossbenchers who number over 200 consistently vote against the Government. This is not the case as I show below – however, since the Tories often feel that we desert them as do the LibDems, we appear to be acting out our Independence nicely?
I have been keeping a close eye on voting patterns since becoming Convenor and now have the results of crossbench votes in ALL divisions since the last Queen’s Speech in November 2007. Here they are:
All Amendments (Government, Opposition and Crossbench)
For the Government = 1,544 (45.7%)
Against the Government = 1,833 (54.2%)
Government and Oppostion Amendments
For the Government = 1,346 (47.7%)
Against the Government = 1,477 (52.3%)
So over time it more or less evens out as one would expect from the Independent Crossbench Peer Group. Perhaps too, votes in support of the Government are somewhat distorted if only because people are generally very keen to register their disagreement with an amendment but not always as ready to show support – assuming that it will be won by the Government anyway.
One of the reasons why I think it important to keep a record of, amongst other issues, voting patterns is because a sizeable group like the Crossbenches could find themselves open to all kinds of pressures in this pre-election period.
I suspect the massive defeat of the Government amendment on the 42-day pre-charge detention vote is a key factor here. Certainly when Lady Manningham-Buller, former head of the UK Intelligence Service MI5, gently points out that in her experience there is no need to extend the pre-charge detention period and this is backed up by a senior policeman (both crossbenchers) of course the majority of us are going to support their views! None of us believe we know more than these experts on this topic?
I should add that in this particular matter, approximately 23 Labour Peers voted against the Government and a further 60-70 abstained. It wasn’t the crossbenches what lost it!