The more nocturnal of our readers will doubtless have flicked through television channels in the early hours many times before. When the BBC’s rolling news becomes tiresome, perhaps because the day’s stories have long since turned from ‘rolling’ to plain old, you flick along two channels and have a look at what Sky’s saying. Then you discover that Murdoch’s channel is only reporting old sports news (all right, all right, we know we won the cricket!), so you might flick one down on to BBC Parliament. In those early hours, it usually broadcasts recorded coverage of that day’s sitting in the Lords.
Not so last night. The channel had rare live coverage of the Lords sitting all through the night on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill.
If anyone thinks that what follow is uncharacteristically incendiary, I should explain that I have had less than two hours’ sleep. Instead I have had to listen to endlessly repetitive special pleading from a small group of ex-MPs.
Viewers of the Parliament Channel could observe the spectacle of Labour Peers engaged in long-winded obstruction of which filibustering US Senators would be proud. We heard at length of the different figures which could be arrived at for the number of MPs in the House of Commons, and we heard which of those figures were derived from prime numbers, and which prime numbers were most likely to be involved. We got lengthy expositions of the particular boundaries of constituencies Peers had once been connected with, and of the surrounding constituencies, and of how terribly important they all were.
This was the House of Lords at its absolute worst. We are supposed to be a constructive, revising chamber. However, the Opposition has now managed to bind together some of the more arcane procedures of the House with their own political chicanery to create a very grubby picture. In the service of the absurd Labour argument that constituencies should not contain roughly an equal number of voters, unelected peers are now contriving to delay and derail a long awaited chance for the people to have their say on the electoral system.
And what of all the supposed ‘expertise’ in the House? Is it a cohort of wise elders who are creating this delay? Of course not. All through the night the charge was led by former Labour MPs, in the twilight both of their political careers, and of everyone else’s patience. Their sole objective now is to upset the balance of the Coalition Government by disrupting the progress of this Bill. They harp on about ‘proper scrutiny’ but what they are doing is neither proper nor scrutiny. It is expert mischief making – nothing more, nothing less.
The ‘debate’ goes on…and I will be lucky to get any more sleep tonight. What a way to run a country!