Tuesday News Review

Mandelson and Johnson urge Labour to vote Yes

Two Labour grandees have accused the coalition of hijacking the AV debate to air its “petty tensions” and cynically turn it into a bitter row between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, after a series of high-profile clashes between ministers over next week’s referendum. Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, told the Guardian that the debate was “bigger than the Liberal Democrats” and appealed to Labour voters to back the alternative vote, claiming that a vote against reform was in effect a vote for the Conservatives. Lord Mandelson, the former cabinet minister, claimed the prime minister had adopted a high profile role in the no campaign to divert attention away from a debate about AV. The cabinet will meet for the first time after the Easter recess on Tuesday, with coalition relations at a new low. – the Guardian

David Cameron is today accused of cynically turning the referendum campaign on the voting system into a bitter row between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to head off a Yes vote. In his first intervention in the AV referendum, Lord Mandelson, the former Labour cabinet minister, claimed that the Prime Minister had adopted a high-profile role in the No campaign in order to divert media and public attention away from a debate about the alternative vote (AV). In an interview with The Independent, Lord Mandelson warned Labour figures who are backing the No camp that their actions could condemn the party to years in the electoral wilderness. He appealed to Labour supporters to vote Yes in next week’s referendum to damage the Tories and undermine Mr Cameron’s position. – the Independent

After AV, will the Lord’s be the next Coalition issue?

Like all of God’s earthly creation, the House of Lords is imperfect.  Its powers, its composition and its legitimacy have all come in for severe criticism over the years, from different parts of the political spectrum.  There have been several major reports, a Joint Committee and numerous votes in Parliament in recent years.  The result has been a lot of disagreement, and no change. It has now been reported that — as prefigured in the Coalition Agreement — the Government will publish a Bill at the end of May to bring in an 80% elected Upper Chamber of 500 or so using Proportional Representation.  “Senators” would apparently be elected in thirds every five years. People will differ over the merits of this and other possible models.  The question is, should an elected House of Lords be a priority right now?  To answer it, what we need are non-partisan arguments, arguments that ignore party politics and just look at the merits of the issue in the current context. From this viewpoint the answer is pretty clearly No.  – Conservative Home

Conservative whips under fire from newbies

For years they have been feared and loathed in equal measure, rumoured to have the ability to reduce errant MPs to tears and submission with a flick through their “little black book”. But now the fabled Conservative whips – who provided the inspiration for the murderous Francis Urquhart in The House of Cards – are facing a rebellion they are finding hard to control: the modern world. They are under attack from their new MPs who make up almost half the parliamentary party and cannot understand for need for the cast-iron discipline and subservience to the whips’ office that their predecessors took for granted. Most have had jobs in the “real world” as bankers, doctors and accountants and believe the whips should be keener on “career development” than career control. But what has caused the most ire among the new backbenchers is the whips’ policy of using “overwhelming force” to ensure they never lose a parliamentary vote. – the Independent

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