Dismay over defeat of the Fatal Motion – but why did Labour lords abstain?

I doubt anyone in main media is going to write a decent article on the Lords regret & fatal motions, so I am going to give it a shot.

Before we start, some things to understand.
This was NOTHING to do with the actual bill.

This was all about the government using a statutory instrument to bypass an item the Lords had already voted down.

And to try and sneak it past the Lords. Badly.

Don’t believe anyone in the Lords is happy about that, they’re not.

The government picked a deliberate fight.

Lets start with the first motion – Why did Labour table a “motion of regret”?

Well, because they are playing politics.
And they sensed a bear trap.

IF Labour had tabled a fatal motion, the government would have accused them of blocking legislation in the Lords.

It would also mean that, if and when Labour are in power, the Conservatives could simply block Labour legislation in the same manner.

This was the make up of the Lords in June 2020.

That Conservative number has not reduced since then.

Hopefully, you can see the headache this would cause for Labour.

Any legislation risks being blocked – and that is their BIG concern.

So instead they table a “motion of regret” – an utterly toothless motion that simply says “We are pissed off”

It also does something else

It effectively puts on record, for all time, that Labour allowed the bill to pass “under duress”

A method of saying “we see what you are doing, we don’t like it, but we are not going to fall into the trap you have set”

The added benefit for Labour is that the use of SI to bypass the Lords has now been set.

By the conservatives.
That big number in the Lords may not be so useful to them now.
The threat to use their own trick against them is set.

But there is power in not using it too.

The Lords is NOT happy with the use of statutory instruments.

After tonight, they will be determined to make sure they cannot be used in that manner again.

And Labour will fully back amendments for that – they intend to write them.

That also restores their image of “Doing the right thing”

And sidesteps accusations of wanting that power for themselves.

With time, they hope to spin it to look competent rather than reactive & emotional.

They also manage to put the onus back onto the commons – the bill returns there unamended.

Tory rebels have said they will not vote for it unamended.

The pressure now is for them to keep their word or be nailed for their cowardice.

The bill could be thrown out, if enough Tories have a spine to keep to their word.

Even if it isn’t, Labour won’t be too unhappy.

They can table legislation to amend things they don’t like and keep parts they do.

If there is too much push back, they can repeal it.

As a political play for a party wanting to be in power, this is therefore a win for the Labour party.

But, is it a PRINCIPLED action?

Which leads us to the Fatal Motion.

If you have got this far, you might see Jenny Jones’ motion as politically na├»ve now.

You would be very wrong.

Politics is NOT just about clever plays.
It is also about being the people the public can have confidence in.

In the debate this evening it was noticeable that Conservative peers wanted to talk about “the bill”

Labour peers wanted to talk about the “supremacy of the elected house”

But crossbench, Lib Dem & Green peers wanted to talk about doing what is right, dammit!

And doing right matters.
It is what builds confidence in systems & leaders.

Lord Paddick rightly said that if the fatal motion passed, the government could draft a one item clause and submit it as primary legislation.

Showing up the ridiculousness of the government action and the argument that the Lords would be killing the bill.

Lord Pannick & Lord Lisvane were also excellent in cutting through to the nub of the issue.

The government acting in a dictatorial, not democratic manner.

The fatal motion needed to pass to restore public trust in the checks & balances.

In the fairness of the system

It didn’t.

We are poorer for that as all can now see our government is a power play, a game of thrones.

Instead, we have a “ball is in your court” action to the government.

The executive won, but it may well be a poisoned chalice.

And THAT point was rammed home too.

It fell to Claire Fox [of all people! Ed] to make it.


“I have full sympathy with baroness Jones’ motion, but cannot support it.

We cannot sink this house to the governments level”

Perhaps, just perhaps, THAT is the best outcome after all.

Addendum: This is what the Labour motion of regret does – it puts something to the commons that has to be voted on. This is in addition to the commons vote on the bill itself.

It is a gamble. The government will not withdraw its bill.

It therefore relies on the Tory rebels who said they would not support the bill unamended – which is how it is returned.

It relies a LOT on Tories keeping their word.