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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 4. 1971–2014: The Exclusion of Hereditary Peers – Book 1: 1971–2001 – Book 2: 2002–2014

Peter Raina

Peter Raina’s magnificent history of Lords reform has already brought into the public domain a mass of original documents and thrown light on the debates they fuelled. In Volume 4 he brings his study up to the present age.
The Thatcher and Blair governments were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated. Mrs Thatcher’s inaction on the issue only increased calls for abolition or change. So the Blair government grasped the nettle. In one historic Act of Parliament it ejected hereditary peers from the House – except for 92 saved by a last-minute amendment. The negotiations and reactions surrounding this event are recorded here in lively detail.
This concluding book brings Peter Raina’s History of Lords’ Reform up to the end of 2014. It follows on from the banishment of hereditary peers from the House in the name of democracy. This was proclaimed as only the start of more sweeping change. What was to happen next?
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Chapter Fifteen: 2008. An Elected Second Chamber: The Cross-Party Group

← ii. 276 | ii. 277 →CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Extract

On 27 June 2007 Tony Blair resigned as prime minister. Blair’s continued support of the US president, George W. Bush during the Iraq War of 2003 and his reluctance to criticize Israel during the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 had caused much unrest within the Labour Party. The Labour back-bench members were threatening an open revolt. Blair felt compelled to leave his office and cede it to Gordon Brown. Brown was himself a keen supporter of Lords reform. As new prime minister, he asked Jack Straw, now the lord chancellor and secretary of state for Justice, to continue further with reform of the Upper House. Jack Straw was eager to proceed with reform, but he was not prepared to do it alone. He invited a Cross-Party Group to face the challenge. The Group included the following members:

The Rt Hon. Jack Straw, MP (Chair)

Rt Hon the Baroness Ashton of Upholland (Labour)

leader of the House of Lords and lord president of the Council

Rt Rev. John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford

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