Monday 22 April 2024

More of a pong than a ping


In his unwise and inexplicable desperation to get on with demonstrating how stupid and unworkable his Rwanda policy is, Sunak has been blaming the Labour Party for his failure to get the measure through the House of Lords, despite the fact that, of the 790 members of the Lords, only 173 sit as Labour peers, whilst there are actually 278 Tories. As Sunak has demonstrated on previous occasions, his grasp of basic arithmetic is somewhat shaky at best. Faced with two three-digit numbers, he struggles to work out which is the higher – he probably can’t even count his accumulated millions, what with that number containing even more digits.

His argument that an appointed house should not attempt to subvert the will of an elected house has a degree of merit. Or, rather, it would have were it not for the fact that Sunak’s party has historically obstructed attempts at Lords reform, preferring (for reasons which escape me, although they might not be unrelated to the fact that, as a general rule, there is a natural Tory majority in the Lords, to say nothing of peerages being a convenient way of rewarding large donors) to keep the status quo. No-one who is so committed to retaining an unelected house as part of the UK parliamentary system can honestly complain if it very occasionally exercises the limited powers which it possesses. But then, I suppose the word ‘honestly’ is the most important part of that sentence. The process of shuttling the legislation back and fore between the two chambers is known as parliamentary ping pong, where the ‘ping’ part refers to the transmission of the document, and the ‘pong’ part presumably refers to the stench of hypocrisy.

Tonight, the process of pinging the legislation between the two chambers will resume, with the PM – after deliberately deciding to delay votes which could have taken place last week – making it clear that parliamentarians in both houses will be expected to stay on the premises to continue voting until the Lords back down, as everyone supposes they eventually will. In anticipation of his expected victory, Sunak is apparently holding a press conference this morning to warn peers that they must now yield to his will, although one of his ministers has said that he will also spell out quite how he intends to implement the legislation once it is passed. If getting the legislation accepted by both houses of parliament has been a fraught experience for the PM, trying to implement it looks like being even fraughter (and if there isn’t such a word, there certainly should be). With an election likely to be held in October, there’s only six months before he is turfed out. The chances of a single plane taking off in the meantime currently look remote. And the chances of it deterring anybody look even remoter.

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