Keir Starmer warned against ‘political capital’ on Lords reform

Keir Starmer warned against ‘political capital’ on Lords reform

Keir Starmer has been warned by Labour peers that he risks getting bogged down in a constitutional quagmire that will prevent him from completing other urgent domestic reforms if he pushes ahead with plans to scrap the House of Lords in the first term of a Labour government.

Several senior Labour figures in the Lords have privately questioned the Labour leader's commitment to drive through the Lords' proposal to replace the Lords with an elected second chamber in his first term, warning that he could use up huge amounts of political capital on an issue few voters mention on the doorstep.

The Observer revealed a fortnight ago that Starmer had told peers he wanted to move to an elected second chamber and strip politicians of the power to make appointments to the Lords, as part of sweeping changes aimed at restoring voters faith in politics. This was confirmed by party officials.

The issue has caused disquiet in the party and led some to urge caution. Last night, aides to Starmer denied that there were tensions between Starmer and former party leader Gordon Brown, who will publish a review of the constitution that he hopes will be adopted in large part by the party.

Brown's report will recommend moving to an elected second chamber to restore faith in the political system. Plans for a radical devolution of powers to the regions will be included in the biggest transfer of power from Westminster ever. There will also be plans to restore faith in politics through a new system to govern ethics.

Some high levels of the party have cautioned against a manifesto commitment to drive through Lords reform as soon as a Labour comes to power, should it win the next general election. In the early years of the coalition government of Tory Lib Dem, previous attempts to reform the Lords have ended in failure and deadlock.

One Labour peer with influence said he would not say it was a backlash, but he has been made aware that he could use up a lot of political capital at the cost of other domestic reforms if he goes too fast on this. Another peer said it sounds a good idea, but attempts to reform the Lords have led to a political quagmire in the past. In an article for this weekend sObserver, Starmer promises to pursue a wide range of reforms to restore trust in politics and politicians, while not mentioning the House of Lords. He writes: Tomorrow, we will begin to set out exactly how the next Labour government will meet that challenge.

The proposals of Gordon Brown and the Commission on the UK's Future will set the path for the biggest transfer of control from Westminster back to the British people. It means that at the next election, Labour will promise new powers for towns, cities, regions and nations to reignite our economy, while scrapping unaccountable ones in Westminster to restore trust in our politics.

I have always believed that the people best placed to decide what works in Stirling, Sunderland or Swansea are the people there. If we want these places to drive growth, we need to first hand them the keys. I want to change the idea of who our politics serves, as well as bring people closer to decision making. The way this Tory government keeps putting up taxes while endlessly clutching over the prospect of oil companies or non-doms or Eton College paying their fair share leaves working people with one sense: that Britain is run for someone, but that it isn't them.