A Labor government would abolish the House of Lords and create a ‘senate of the nations and regions’ in its place, the Scottish Labor leader has announced.
Speaking at Westminster, in which he also ruled out any pact or coalition with Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP), Anas Sarwar said: “A central part of the Labor Party’s mission must be to renew democracy.
“The House of Lords, in its current form, has no place in 21st century politics as an institution. It is unacceptable, and has been the case for far too long, for unelected representatives to exercise such power.
“The House of Lords should be abolished and replaced by an institution that better reflects the makeup and identity of the United Kingdom.”
He said that would mean an elected senate, with further details set out in a report on constitutional reform from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, expected to be published later this year.
The abolition of the House of Lords was in the Labor 2019 manifesto and Keir Starmer mentioned it in his leadership talk for the party; but asked about it last November, he seemed to distance himself from the idea, saying only that the Lords “need change”. Sarwar made it clear, however, that Starmer was fully behind the plan.
The idea of a Senate of the Nations and Regions, which also features in the Labor manifesto under Ed Miliband, is said to have elected representatives from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.
Tony Blair’s government has reached an agreement to remove most hereditary colleagues from the House of Lords – although 92 remain, elected by their peers. Labor’s plans for broader reform met fierce opposition and were eventually shelved.
As well as rethinking the lower house, Sarwar also announced Labour’s plans for changes to the way devolution works, with a new duty for the Westminster government to work together on cross-cutting issues.
He vehemently rejected Sturgeon’s intention to treat the next general election as a “proxy referendum” on independence, lamenting that the reassuring figure of “pandemic Nicola” had been replaced by “the partisan Nicola Sturgeon who wants to pit Scot against Scot because of her own obsession”.
Labor overtook the Conservatives to take second place in May’s municipal elections as Sarwar tries to rebuild what he calls “the first red wall to fall” in Scotland.
On the possibility of a pact with the SNP, which the Tories are expected to focus on in the next election, while warning as they did in 2010 of a “coalition of chaos,” Sarwar said: “Labour will not make a deal with the SNP.
“No deal. No pact. No behind closed doors arrangement. No coalition. In the next election we will fight for every vote and we aim to form a Labor majority government. Should we fail and be able to form a minority government then the SNP represents a simple choice.
“It can choose to keep the Tories in power, or choose to support a Labor government. And I challenge Nicola Sturgeon to support the Tories and bring them back to power, and see how Scotland reacts.”