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My Lords, in expressing delight that my noble friend Lord McNally is sitting where he is, I should also express my thanks and appreciation that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Lord, Lord Bach, with their invariable courtesy and constructive dialogue, occupied that Bench with distinction.
In retrospect, Mr Tony Blair and his Government in May 1997 were unlucky and unfortunate in terms of the way in which this country has been governed. They had too big a majority. Had there been a small, or indeed no, majority, we would have seen completion of the necessary reforms that were set out in the agreement between Mr Robin Cook and the then Mr Robert Maclennan. Instead, of course, we had very timid Lords reform. We had no outcome from the Jenkins commission on electoral reform, to which Mr Blair had committed himself. Instead, he was in thrall to old Labour-Messrs Prescott, Straw and Blunkett-and there was no partnership for a radically reforming Government in the 21st century. We had 13 years of retreat on civil liberties; constitutional renewal was under constant attack; there was subservience to the right-wing tabloid press; and even the 2008 Lords reform White Paper sat gathering dust for two more years. There was weak-kneed collapse of the discussions on cleaning up party funding and then only a deathbed repentance on electoral reform. Those on the opposite side of your Lordships' House who now bemoan what happened on
I never thought that I would say this but, in contrast, David Cameron deserves full credit for recognising, in the first hours after the electorate gave their verdict, that a much more imaginative and radical response was required to make possible any renewal of trust in politics and Parliament. It would have been only too easy to have adopted the Wilson lesson of the summer of 1974. I remember it well. What Mr Wilson did was to delay any serious discussion of the economic problems, to delay any of the painful decisions that were necessary and to postpone all the difficulties until he thought that he would get a majority. On our side, it would have been very easy for the Liberal Democrats to continue in the comfort zone of perpetual opposition.
I give full credit to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. That was true leadership. Breaking the mouldy mould of confrontational politics was not only the right thing but the popular thing to do. By 2:1, a large majority, the public are showing their favour for the new agreement. That is far greater support than any other Government since the war has enjoyed. People recognise-