Tuesday News Review

Shock defeat in Lords

DAVID Cameron’s bid to introduce a referendum on the voting system and cut the number of MPs suffered a shock setback last night. The Government lost a Lords vote, by a majority of one, on a Labour motion to make May’s proposed poll binding only if turnout was 40% or more. It was the ­Coalition’s third defeat on the Bill. The result opens the possibility the Bill may not become law in time for a referendum on adopting the alternative vote, which the PM wants to be held on May 5. – the Mirror

An unholy alliance of Labour peers, up to 10 Tory rebels and one bishop (we’re all trying find out which Bish) has seen the Government defeated in the Lords on the issue of a threshold for the AV referendum. An amendment by ex Labour minister Lord (Jeff) Rooker calling for a 40% threshold for any vote has won by a single vote. Government whips were clearly caught off-guard by yet another Labour guerilla operation and ambush. The irony is that this is just as the Coalition came up with its carefully considered compromises on two opposition demands on the bill. – Paul Waugh

The government suffered a narrow defeat in the House of Lords on Monday night when rebel Tories joined forces with Labour peers to make the planned referendum on electoral reform non-binding if turnout falls below 40%. Labour hailed its win as highly significant after an amendment by the former minister Lord Rooker to introduce a 40% threshold in the referendum on AV, due to take place on 5 May, was backed by 219 peers to 218. The Labour peers were joined by 10 Tory rebels including the former cabinet ministers, Lord Lamont, Lord Brooke and Lord Forsyth. The Rooker amendment would mean that parliament would have to decide whether to accept a yes vote if turnout fell below 40%. Under the government’s plans a simple yes vote, regardless of the turnout, would lead to the introduction of AV for elections to the Commons as long as the plans to reduce the number of MPs are also in place. – the Guardian

ShadCab meet over prisoner votes

The shadow cabinet will meet later to decide its stance on prisoner voting rights after two ex-Labour ministers clashed over the controversial issue. Jack Straw and Lord Prescott rowed over it on Monday at a Westminster meeting. They disagreed over whether the Commons should defy a European Court ruling requiring that prisoners in the UK be given the vote. MPs will debate the issue on Thursday and the government says it will do the minimum possible in order to comply. At present, in the UK, only prisoners on remand are allowed to vote. – BBC

The shadow cabinet will meet today to confirm its position on the issue of prisoners’ voting rights. On Thursday MPs will debate the change to allow prisoners to vote, which comes as a result of a European Court of Human Rights ruling. – PoliticsHome

Big society? Big disappointment

‘You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society.” With these words, David Cameron last July reaffirmed his commitment to an idea that had been given a brief moment in the sun during the election campaign, before being consigned to a backroom, like an embarrassing relative. The Big Society concept was, he declared, “a huge culture change” that would make “a real difference to the country I love”. Seven months on, Mr Cameron must wonder whether the country he loves really gives two hoots about his Big Society. Those who are shouting loudest are those who have most to lose – from police chiefs to council bosses, they are lining up to club the concept to death before it has even had a chance to draw breath. – the Telegraph

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