PM4PM? If so, it’ll be the Lib Dems’ fault

by Stephen Tall on July 31, 2009

Yes, the silly season has started right on cue, with ‘mounting speculation’ (newspaper code for: 2+ journalists writing the same thing) that the next Labour leader might be none other than Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham. This is, of course, utter rubbish, as everyone who’s written up the notion has been forced to concede.

But IF the impossible were to occur, and Peter Mandelson were to ascend to Number 10, he would do so thanks to one man, Liberal Democrat peer, Lord (Andrew) Phillips of Sudbury. Wikipedia takes up the story:

In July 2006, to the surprise of many people, Lord Phillips of Sudbury announced his intention to resign from the House of Lords at the age of 67 (the average age of members being 68). He criticised the “cascades” of legislation that the Labour government had introduced:

It is seriously counter-productive. No society can absorb a net increase of statute law of eight or nine thousand pages a year.’

He said he would pursue other interests, and would no longer be just a “weekend husband” to his wife.
He had wanted to vacate his seat in the House of Lords, revert to being known as Mr Phillips, and allow “new blood” from his party to take his seat. However, although hereditary peers may disclaim their titles under the Peerage Act 1963, life peers are unable to renounce their titles, and continue to hold them for life. Therefore, Phillips is to take leave of absence from the House, meaning he will be unable to attend or vote, but could return at a month’s notice.

Lord Phillips’ stand is prompting a change in the law, currently being guided through the House of Commons by Jack Straw as part of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. As Carl Gardner notes on The Wardman Wire blog:

Part 3, clauses 29 and 30 will allow peers to resign from the Lords and disclaim their peerages; and clause 30(6) and (7) will free them to stand for election to the Commons. It’s already being suggested this is a “Mandelson clause“, which will allow the Lord High Everything Else to stand for the Commons and lead his party.

So, there you have it: if PM4PM moves from beyond being a slogan into reality, then it will be the Lib Dems wot done it.