Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Lords will decide when the next election is

As was expected the Commons has voted against the Tory amendment for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, so now it passes to the Lords. Oh yes, the Lords, where the amendment will inevitably be tabled yet again, and, with a bit of luck, will be supported because the Lords are good like that.

If anyone read Mary-Anne Seighart today in the Times (yes she's back (guest column presumably)), they will have seen a rare moment of clarity where she made a very good point you see.
Tonight's vote is unlikely to lead to a defeat for the Government, but it is perfectly possible that the Lords will vote for a referendum in the early summer. True, there are a lot of former ambassadors and Europhile Tories there; but equally, the remainder aren't likely to fall for the line that the treaty is substantially different from the constitution. If enough crossbenchers support a referendum, it will pass.

Then the Government will be in trouble. The usual ping-pong will take place, but the unelected Lords cannot be expected to give in on the ground that the legislation was in the manifesto - quite the reverse. Could Mr Brown then resort to the Parliament Act in order to prevent the public having a say on an unpopular measure? He could, but it would be disastrous for his reputation.
So, if the Lords back a referendum we go into a state of flux, back and forth, and then perhaps - maybe - Brown uses the Parliament Act to force it through. The problem is he will have to wait a year by which time it will be summer 2009.

Now look back to the earlier post about the rumours of June 2009 for the next election. I suggested it was a clever strategy to merge a General Election with the Europeans to give UKIP a greater platform with the hope that it would split the Tory vote.

However, if the Lords do start a game of Parliamentary table tennis then we could have a situation where summer 2009 becomes a battle over the Lisbon Treaty. The Independent's original article suggested the Brown didn't want to "do a Major" and hold on to the bitter end, but think about it for a second. If the Lords don't play ball then "Bottler Brown" may find that he has too.

After all, a merged election would give UKIP traction and highlight splits on the Right, but the equal traction of the "failed to deliver on manifesto promise" in a General Election campaign is even greater isn't it? It all hangs on the Lords now surely.

If the Lords support the Tory amendment then we will have Brown until 2010. If they don't he will take the risk of June 2009. They hold the key to the chest that has the next General Elections' date in it.


Norfolk Blogger said...

As ever, I learn something from reading your blog.

Peter said...

The other risk of June 2009 is that a Tory/UKIP split might be just what those on the Tory/Ukip divide might like. Vote Tory in the general election, vote UKIP in the Euro election could become a very happy compromise/tactical vote for them.

Pete Chown said...

I could see a combined Westminster/Euro election being bad for Brown even without this. It means a campaign focused on Europe, and Europe is an issue where the Tories are much closer to public opinion than Labour is.

True, some people will waste a vote on UKIP in the Westminster election, but what about Eurosceptics who normally vote Labour for Westminster? They might vote UKIP or Tory for Europe and that would give them a push towards voting the same way for Westminster.

Because Brown tends to "bottle" things, I've a feeling he might hang on until the end in 2010. He would only call an election if he was certain of winning, and of course you can never be certain.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Parliament act could only be used to force through a manifesto commitment.