Nadhim Zahawi MP notes that "exactly 0% of people" say Lords reform should be Coalition's priority
By Tim Montgomerie
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Since entering Parliament Nadhim Zahawi has been one of the Government's most loyal supporters. To the best of my knowledge he has not rebelled even once. He has been regarded by Number 10 as one of its Praetorian Guardsmen. This does not mean he doesn't know his own mind. As a member of the BIS Select Committee Nadhim was a lead critic of the decision to appoint Les Ebdon as access tsar. Nonetheless, he's always been ready to go on TV and radio to defend the Government's line. I sometimes watch Prime Minister's Question Time from the press gallery and Nadhim sits directly opposite Ed Miliband and deploys every trick in the book to try and knock the Labour leader off course. It's fascinating to watch.
So when this MP for Stratford-upon-Avon criticises the Tory leadership's priorities as he did at Thursday's special 1922 meeting on Lords reform - it's noteworthy. In today's Observer he has set out his case in more detail. He warns that an elected Lords would challenge the Commons and that deadlock might result:
"The idea that deadlock between two chambers is a good thing is complete madness. You only have to look at the US public's exasperation with the paralysis that sometimes takes hold of its legislature to see that this won't work. And not only that it won't work, but that the public, many of them already feeling disenchanted by politics, won't thank us for it."
"The Conservative manifesto pledged: "We will work to build a consensus for a mainly elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords." It said nothing about delivering an elected chamber in this parliament and neither does the coalition agreement, which simply says: "We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals.""
Former Chief Executive of YouGov Mr Zahawi also notes that there is no public interest in dedicating parliamentary time to this issue:
"In private polling undertaken last week, exactly 0% of people said that House of Lords or political reform should be the government's main priority for the next year. Even when prompted with it as an option, only 6% of people agreed."
Nadhim Zahawi makes it clear that he's in favour of Lords reform but not abolition. A new website and Twitter feed has been launched today that makes the case for a more effective second chamber. The cross-party initiative coordinated by Lord Louth states:
"To be against election is not to be against change. There is a case for introducing a statutory appointments commission, ensuring members of the second chamber are appointed on the basis of great merit. There is a case for closing off the process by which a new hereditary peer is selected to fill a vacancy when an existing hereditary peer dies. The effect of closing off this option will be to render the remaining hereditary peers in the House life peers. We also recognise the case for bringing the provision for expulsion from the House, if convicted of a serious criminal offence, in line with that employed in the House of Commons. We also favour changes in procedure and structures that further strengthen the House in fulfilling its functions. What we want is to strengthen the existing House in doing its job. We believe that election or part election will undermine or destroy its capacity to do that."