I’m not as bothered that the ancestors of some current peers are bastard sons of Charles the Second than that so many of them come from the South East of England.

It’s a fact that the vast majority of the 826 members of the House of Lords are either from that corner of the country or live there now.

This means that most members of the upper chamber who play a crucial role in our law making know little or nothing about our neck of the woods, so roll on regional peers.

The way in which a reshaped House of Lords will be elected has received little attention from the Westminster Village journalists. That’s not surprising as most of them are from the London area.

However the bill to be debated on Monday contains plans that could give a real voice to the North. 80% of the new house will be elected by proportional representation. These new democratic Lords will sit for one 15 year term and they will be elected from the regions of England. So the North West, North East and Yorkshire will be able to elect representatives who know about our patch and its people.

This proposal will also have the advantage of reasserting the concept of the North West of England. The Coalition has spent two years comprehensively wiping regions off the map. Now they are beginning to realise the usefulness of uniting Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and the great cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Better together indeed.

When the time comes we will need to make sure that independent people have a real shot at getting elected. The main political parties will choose their candidates on a list and depending on the votes they get, their peers will be elected in the same way as we choose our members of the European Parliament.

It is a system that locks out the public in favour of party cabals so we will have our work cut out to get independent voices to beat them, but that’s not for now.

What is immediately required is support for the government in getting the Lords reformed. It currently looks as if the Coalition Government is faced with a Coalition of political opportunists and peers with self interested reasons for seeing no reform at all.

All parties are split. The Lib Dems are most in favour but watch some of their representatives in the Lords who may not be too keen to lose their seats. A large number of Tory backbenchers are against for various reasons. There is a group following in the tradition of their predecessors 100 years ago who were prepared to draw the monarchy into politics as they fought against Lords reform. Others are spoiling for a fight with the Lib Dems who are most committed to the measure.

Then there is Labour who are in a mood of dangerous opportunism. They have been in favour of full Lords reform since Kier Hardy (their founder) was a lad. However they can’t resist embarrassing the government by calling for endless debating time on the bill. If they vote with rebel Tories on the motion which decides how long Lords Reform is going to be debated, it could effectively kill the measure.

If that happened the North West would be denied a real chance for a voice in this country’s second chamber.




I thought the process of the Tories and Lib Dems going their separate ways ahead of the 2015 General Election would start about a year out. Now it looks as if the Coalition Government is going to grind to a halt much sooner as the Tories and Lib Dems bid for votes.

David Cameron has risked this happening with the launch of his idea to scrap housing benefit for under 25s. He made no secret of this being a true Tory policy free from the coalition agreement that so irritates his right wing backbenchers. Its effect is to begin a process that can only weaken the forward movement of the government.

Apart from the fact that most of the key legislation was rammed into the first two years of the parliament, Tory and Lib Dem MPs will now be focused on shaping up for the next election rather than making the concept of coalition government work.

It is true that Cameron has been true to his word to introduce a bill for Lords reform this week. But few Tories have any commitment to it, most are indifferent or are actively plotting to defeat it. They don’t want the measure and they don’t want to put any feathers in the cap of the Lib Dems. So the next election is underway.


By and large the old vote and youngsters don’t. Therefore politicians meddle with elderly people’s allowances with the greatest care. Tuition fees of £9000 a year fine but free TV licences and winter fuel allowances for the grey brigade….untouchable, until now.

Although the government is committed to the concessions in this parliament, there are indications that after 2015 the better off elderly are going to start feeing the pain of the younger generation.

And so we should! I was born under the National Health Service in 1948. I did not do national service or fight in a war. University education was free. There were plenty of jobs afterwards and, for some, good pensions to retire on.

Compare that to the stressed generation of youngsters now. Big debts, no jobs and the prospect of paying for our profligate public spending throughout their lives.

The Chancellor made the first move when he chopped the age related tax relief I was expecting next year, but this could only be the start of a seismic move by politicians to be more even handed between the generations.

It will be fascinating to see how the electorate reacts. Will young people start to vote in large numbers to influence politicians or will the 1940s baby boomers mobilise to insist that the good times must continue to roll for them?


There won’t be a long inquest into our latest failure to land the European Nations Cup. (I prefer the old titles, League Cup, European Cup, and Division 1).

We have made our choice. We are happy to pay Sky high subscriptions to watch the world’s best footballers in the First Division (ok, Premier League).

Even more foreign stars will be attracted to our shores with the latest extraordinary hike in television rights. Even fewer talented English players will get a chance to perform at the highest club level, so there will be even fewer able to pass and hold the ball in international tournaments.

The new FA youth centre will help a bit, but as my late father said to me as we watched England winning in 1966, “It could be a long time before you see this happen again.”