UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow gave an interview at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier this month in which he provides insight into the role of the Speaker and why he was attracted to the position. The University of Edinburgh Business School have very helpfully provided a recording of it free of charge should anyone be curious as to what was said at the event.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#336699″ class=”” size=”5px”]”Labour made a deadly error when during the last Parliament it removed the institutional say of its MPs in its own leadership contests, as we are now seeing.”[/pullquote]
The UK Labour Party is in the midst of a leadership contest which has not been going to plan. The most left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, looks set to win on the first ballot, if recent polls are accurate. The Telegraph has a very helpful explanation of who’s who in the race, what some of the key problems are, and why so many of the party’s stalwarts (and political commentators) are predicting chaos if Corbyn does indeed win. One concern expressed by many is that Labour under Corbyn will fail in its role of being an effective opposition. Many have blamed the party for moving from its electoral college to One-Member-One-Vote for the problems it is now facing. These arguments should be of interest to Canadians since OMOV is how all Canadian political parties select their leaders. There is a certain consensus among many in the UK that the choice of party leader should remain the domain of the parliamentary party, not the party at large. Open primaries work well for choosing constituency candidates — but most certainly not for choosing the party leader.
Meanwhile in Australia, some are trying to revive the republican movement. The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has joined forces with Labor senator Katy Gallagher to jointly chair a parliamentary friendship group which will push for a new debate on Australia becoming a republic. Two other senior ministers have since lent their support to the cause. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch monarchist, has downplayed the issue, saying there are far more important issues facing the county. It’s debatable how much real support there is for the republican movement. Stephanie Peating has put forward a helpful list of five things that need to happen before Australia becomes a republic. I don’t think they’ll have much luck with #2 on that list.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#336699″ class=”” size=””]”these are not simply isolated musings. I have spoken to journalists who claim to have been told by senior Conservative sources that there is indeed a deliberate strategy to undermine the Lords.”[/pullquote]If you thought Canada was the only country having an sort of existential crisis over its Upper House (the Senate), well, we’re not. Over in the UK, the House of Lords has become the subject of much debate of late, following Prime Minister Cameron’s recent slew of new appointments. While in Canada, Prime Minister Harper is refusing to make any more appointments to fill the growing number of vacancies, which in turn is making it more difficult for the Senate to do its work properly, in the UK, it’s the opposite problem. The Lords is now the second-largest legislative chamber in the world, with over 800 members. According to the Constitution Unit, PM Cameron has appointed to Lords at a faster rate than any PM since life peerages began in 1958, averaging about 43 appointments per year compared to 37 for Tony Blair, 25 for John Major and 18 for Margaret Thatcher. The Unit’s Meg Russell wonders if this is really a deliberate plan by Cameron to destroy the Lords and weaken Parliament.
Lord Norton of Louth is advocating for an Upper Chamber that is smaller than the House of Commons. He has been joined in that call by cross-bench peer Baroness Deech. The Guardian is calling for incremental House of Lords reform. Hannah White, of the Institute for Government, reflects on the goal of making the Lords mirror the Commons and how this is simply unworkable. And finally, Conor Farrington of the University of Cambridge, puts forward an interesting argument in favour of unelected upper Houses, claiming that they can play a legitimate democratic role and that there are good reasons for thinking that a fully-elected replacement might not be the best way forward.