This is not a constitutional crisis just the lords blowing a pungent fart in the direction of the Commons

28 Oct 2015 at 10:16

I have a horrible sinking feeling that the Tories are about to fuck up again. No, not about tax credits. There was always going to be a tweaking to assist the poorest. What amazed me was that like the omnishambles budget of 2012 nobody seemed to see this one coming. Mixed signals were coming out of Number 10 and 11 when the IFS, Willetts and Frank Field sounded the air raid sirens. Ministers were touring the tea rooms and bars like corporal Jones, warning jittery backbenchers deluged by letters from the hardworking poor, not to panic. But the Treasury gave the impression that they wanted to play hardball. It was. They slavishly followed the wrongheaded Ken Clarke mantra of “get all the bad news out of the way quickly and people will forget”. Well, they will if the public know in their guts that we are taking unpopular but necessary measures which in the end will help them. An end to the low pay, high benefit culture for one. But the punters are sticklers for fairness and they thought that although the policy of eventually weaning working families off of tax credits, provided they were compensated with lower taxes, a living wage, and thirty hours of free child care was fine, hitting the poorest 3 million in one whack was morally indefensible. Economically sound, but a PR political disaster. Good God, it even made that dreadful old man McDonnell seem reasonable. Insane. So there will be a bit of humble pie eaten by Osborne, who needs to effect a bit of humility from time to time even if he doesn’t mean it, in the Autumn Statement. Water under the bridge.

This evening Osborne addresses the 22. There will be much praise, much banging on desks and a snarling anger. The anger will be directed against the unelected Lords. “Their wings must be clipped……constitutional crisis… dare they breach convention……we are elected……” There will be the stench of bitterness and retribution polluting committee room 14. It is wrong headed, naive and will play badly with the electorate.

Of course, the Lords is stuffed with placemen (and women) who have greased their way into Parliament by cash bribes and and those who have toadied their way to erminedom by vigorous tongue on leather action. Then there are the political retreads who often bring the worst elements of partisanship to the upper house. But there are good and decent people there too.

On the fatal motion, which sounds a little like death on the lavatory, they over stepped the mark and broke an established convention. Very annoying. But, despite some of the overblown Dickensian arguments, their case was right. This is not a constitutional crisis, just a very pungent fart in the direction of the Commons. Quite sensibly, Cameron has appointed the emollient and pragmatic Tommy Strathclyde to put forward proposals for reform. But best let it hang above them like the sword of Damacles. Anything else will be distraction. For now.