Crossbench voting patterns

Baroness D'Souza

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!

5 comments for “Crossbench voting patterns

  1. 27/11/2008 at 3:58 pm

    I am surprised you can tell there is a difference because the voting in both Houses has always, or if not ALWAYS, most of the time, been on Party lines. This is why this Country is in the dreadful state ‘politically wise’ at this moment in time. Only when Churchill drew all together to fight a war, did we ever gain anything as a country. THAT GAIN WAS FREEDOM which you all have let slip.

  2. 29/11/2008 at 8:50 am

    Ms Palmer, what on God’s green Earth are you talking about? Decry partisan politics if you want, but to do it on a post about crossbench peers who do not have any party affiliation but instead vote according to their understanding and personal consciences is, well, absolutely absurd. Did you read the post you are commenting on? Did you know what a crossbench peer did?

    Also, while it seems ludicrous that I should have to point this out, there is a difference between mobilising the nation in the event of all-out pan-European war and managing the murky turbulence of a large mixed economy during peacetime. One-party unified rule may well help if we face another Hitler, but until that time I think I’d prefer some kind of adversarial system, wouldn’t you?

  3. Mark Shephard
    01/12/2008 at 3:29 pm

    Always good to see some statistics to support an argument, although one aspect that might wish to be considered is the quality/importance of the legislation (although open to interpretation, this could be ascertained through manifesto, statement, survey analysis…) as well as the quantity of votes one way or another. This is something the Baroness alludes to with the 42 day vote. Consequently, perhaps some votes against the government hurt more than others…making the 45 to 55 split less meaningful in practice.

    This is perhaps an interesting line of further enquiry for the Baroness given the multiple votes on different lengths of detention over the last few years. Also, by focusing on similar votes over time, it would be interesting to ascertain who changes their mind over time and why.

  4. baronessdsouza
    01/12/2008 at 4:14 pm

    although I probably would have
    chosen somewhat different words, I do think that McDuff has a point or two.

    I wonder how voting according to conscience has allowed us (or indeed anyone) to let freedom slip?

  5. 01/12/2008 at 5:03 pm

    That’s why they’ll never give me a peerage, I don’t have the class for it.

    Baroness, some of us, even the grouchy ones, appreciate the Lords throwing some sandbags onto the line in front of the government’s speeding authority train. Freedom doesn’t slip, it gets wilfully removed with bipartisan consent.

    What’s your view on this current debacle with Damian Green? It seems like people have noticed that if you give the police power that they’ll use it. As an insider in the halls of power, do you think that will cause much of a rethink of the government’s apparent intention to legislate as if the only thing stopping the creation of a perfectly secure state is that the police sometimes can’t arrest enough people?

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