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Good morning. Today’s main event is the result of the SNP leadership election, due sometime this afternoon. Some more thoughts on that below, plus why you should take Labour’s promise to reform the House of Lords seriously.
Today’s Inside Politics is edited by Gordon Smith. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to [email protected]
Humming and hahhing
Because everyone — myself very much included! — has hedged an awful lot about the outcome of the SNP leadership election, I think we’re in danger of losing sight of how remarkable anything other than a Humza Yousaf win would be.
We’re talking about a party that has, for the past 20 years, consistently done what its leadership has wanted. SNP activists saw off the attempt to force Nicola Sturgeon to adopt a more radical approach to securing independence in 2019. SNP members voted overwhelmingly to confirm the SNP-Green coalition agreement. We’re talking about a party that has kept its internal divisions firmly hidden from view.
Yes, because the SNP is an opaque organisation, and because the SNP is an unusual party, we can’t be anywhere as confident about the outcome of this leadership election as we could the Truss-Sunak contest, or any of Labour’s internal battles over the past half decade. But the fact remains: if the SNP elects anyone other than Humza Yousaf, who couldn’t be anymore the SNP establishment choice if he tattooed ‘Nicola Sturgeon 4eva’ on his forehead, that will be a huge event in the life of the party.
Whoever emerges as victor, I’ll have plenty to say in this space over the next few days. But for now all I’ll say is this: while we don’t have enough information to make a confident prediction, we shouldn’t be surprised if Kate Forbes or Ash Regan emerge as leader — we should definitely be shocked if either of them do.
She’s taking the peers
Liz Truss will appoint four new Conservative members of the House of Lords, including one of her closest and most loyal aides, Ruth Porter, the architect of Vote Leave Matthew Elliott, and Mark Littlewood, the head of the Institute of Economic Affairs and one of her biggest cheerleaders in wonkworld.
In many ways, it is an unremarkable story: departing prime minister appoints close allies and a donor to the House of Lords, and you won’t believe what bears do in the woods! But it illustrates why you should take Labour’s pledge to reform the House of Lords seriously.
Not just every Labour government, but every government in which either Labour or the Liberals have had a parliamentary majority since the dawn of the 20th century have reformed the unelected second chamber in some way. HH Asquith and Clement Attlee watered down its power of veto. Harold Wilson created life peerages. Tony Blair cleared out most of the hereditary peers.
Taken together, it means that the second chamber now is a completely different body to the one it was when Elizabeth II became queen, let alone to the one it was when the Liberals won the 1906 election.
The reason for this is that every time a party of the left takes power in the UK, it faces the same challenge: how do I get my business through the House of Lords, and how do I create a more hospitable environment for my legislation over there?
Taken together, there are now more Conservative peers (260) than there are Labour and Liberal Democrat peers combined. More important than the composition is the age profile. Most Labour peers are in the House of Lords because, as one of them once put it to me, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown put them in there for “services to bashing the Trots and not joining the SDP” in the 1980s. Or words to that effect, at any rate. Similarly, most Liberal Democrat peers are there because they did join the new Social Democratic Party or because they ran a local authority and were appointed under Nick Clegg. What unites them is that they are, yes, active and effective members of the House of Lords, but also they are past retirement age.
Most of the Conservative appointees over the past decade are, like Littlewood, Elliott and Porter, professionals in the peak of their careers who we should expect will be active and effective members of the House of Lords for decades. The next Labour prime minister, whether it is Keir Starmer in 2024 or someone else later down the line, is going to need to do something drastic to change their fortunes in the House of Lords. So the one thing you should expect is that the House of Lords will look different at the end of the next Labour government than the beginning: whether it is elected, appointed via a citizens’ jury or by some other route.
Now try this
I had a great weekend, not least because Arsenal Women trounced Spurs 5-1. I also had a very enjoyable Saturday morning reading the FT Weekend: I particularly enjoyed Owen Walker and Stephen Morris’s brilliant account of the birth, life and death of Credit Suisse, Simon Kuper’s weekend essay on whether it is time for a sixth French Republic, and Jemima Kelly’s lunch with Bari Weiss.
I also saw Rye Lane again. Go see it! It’s brilliant.
Top stories today
Illegal Migration bill | A potential rebellion by up to 60 backbench Tory MPs has been stopped after the government committed to further restrict the rights of migrants entering the country via illegal routes.
No laughing matter | Rishi Sunak will unveil plans later today to step up “hotspot” policing of high-crime areas and pilot “immediate justice” programmes. The Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan will also outlaw the sale of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”.
HS2 delays | The decision to delay the beleaguered High Speed 2 rail line will pile new costs on to the project, says a new report which also calls for the plans for the redevelopment of Euston station to be reassessed.
UK-EU defence co-operation picks up | Discussions between senior EU and UK officials have intensified in recent weeks on potential steps for closer defence and security co-operation following the signing of the Windsor framework that removed Northern Ireland as an irritant in the relationship between London and Brussels.
‘Holding fire’ | Martha Lane Fox, the new president of the British Chambers of Commerce, has warned policymakers that businesses are holding off making big investment decisions given the UK’s recent political and economic upheaval.
‘Deeply concerning’ | Children as young as eight are being strip-searched by the police, according to a report by the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza. Her report also found some children were strip-searched in the back of police vans, in schools and outside fast-food outlets. (BBC)
Source: Financial Times