What does the “Mongrel Coalition” mean in the House of Lords?

Mayor Boris Johnson has described the new arrangement between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats as the “Mongrel Coalition”.

In the House of Lords there are still 91 hereditary peers sitting and voting on legislation.  (Of these, 47 take the Conservative Whip and make up more than a quarter of the Tory peers.)  I rather suspect they regard themselves as thoroughbreds and take a dim view of mongrels.

More significantly, one of the consequences of the new arrangement is that there will now be 258 members of the House of Lords taking the Government Whip (186 Conservatives and 72 Liberal Democrats).  This is 37% of the House and compares with the 211 Labour peers (30%% of the House) who supported the previous Government prior to the dissolution.  The full arithmetic is here.

This will make it substantially easier for the new Government to get its legislation through the House.

(It will also require a change to the seating arrangements.  At present, the Government occupy two blocks of seats on the right of the Throne with the third block being occupied by the Crossbenchers (who also have a block of seats facing the Throne).  The main opposition party then occupies two blocks of seats to the left of the Throne with the third block on the left being occupied by the Liberal Democrats.  The Conservatives will presumably now occupy the two blocks of seats on the right of the Throne.  Will the LibDems now swap their block of seats with the Crossbenchers, so that both coalition parties will sit next to each other on the right of the Throne?  And even more radically, will LibDem and Tory peers inter-mingle on the three blocks of seats on the right of the Throne? Or is that taking mongrelism and coalitionism a step too far for the House of Lords?  If you really want to follow this, see page 3 here.)

And what of the future?

The coalition agreement (sic) says:

“We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation.  The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.”

So this sounds – in the short-term – like a proposal to create 96 new Liberal Democrat peers and 77 new Tory peers (assuming no Labour ex-MPs are appointed to the House and the Crossbench numbers remain the same) so as to reflect the votes secured in the election.

No wonder the House authorities are so busy measuring the desk-space in each office and counting the lockers ….

And before you ask I don’t know what “a grandfathering system for current peers” is either.

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