In amongst the relative tedium of debates on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, there have been some moments of mind-blowing revelation.
Labour Peer Lord Lipsey gave a vivid example of the dangers of imposing artificial turnout and acceptance thresholds on the results of votes. He said:
“If there is a vote on this, if the threshold proposed by the Lord, Lord Davies, is to be reached, it will require 264 Peers to vote in the Content Lobby for it to be carried. If that of the noble lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, is to be reached, we will need a total turnout of 316 peers. And if that of the noble lord, Lord Grocott, is to be reached – 50 per cent , and 25 per cent yes – we need 395 peers to vote with 198 saying yes. I do not see why we should have a different test for the legitimacy of the vote in the country than we have for the legitimacy of the vote in our own House. Thresholds are arbitrary, they introduce bias, they distort debate and they have absurd consequences.”
Ironically, he did this devastating demolition job some hours after the House had supported a threshold by a margin of one vote. He was that one vote, as he admitted at the start of his speech. You can read his rationale here but I think his later analysis was more persuasive than his earlier apology!