The Times: May must get tough with Lords to stop the Brexit meddling

Even the least fair-minded opponent of Brexit would concede that some of the 14 amendments made by the Lords to the EU withdrawal bill, which returns to the Commons tonight, probably exceed the upper house’s brief: to scrutinise and revise legislation.

Instead it has taken a technical bill concerned with making the statute book fit for purpose after Brexit and added off-piste clauses designed as surreptitiously as possible to trigger second referendums, keep us in the customs union and effectively take over the negotiation with the European Union. The unelected in support of the unaccountable, as Oscar Wilde might say.

In this, and in voting against the Commons on the Leveson Two proposal to investigate the press, the Lords has effectively torn up the Salisbury convention: that manifesto promises by the governing party should not be blocked by an unrepresentative upper house.

Feelings are running high about this uppity upper house, and not just in the tabloid press. The Lords, which already has a reputation among the public for gerontocracy, unaccountability and privilege, is flirting with extinction. It knows this and partly does not care. The 98 Liberal Democrat peers are committed to its abolition anyway. The 92 hereditaries, of which I am one, had mostly expected to be thrown out long since.

The lordly end of the Labour Party, predominantly Blairite, does not care for the Corbynite fudge its MPs try to maintain as they look over their shoulders at Leave-voting constituencies. A Corbyn-Sturgeon government would not hesitate to deploy the legislative gunpowder anyway. More surprising is the sight of most supposedly independent crossbenchers voting en masse against the will of the elected chamber.

To read Matt Ridley’s piece for The Times in full, click here.

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