I've been trying to make sense of what happened in the House of Lords on Wednesday without putting myself through the torture of reading every single word of the debate in Hansard. Having done a skim-read, it looks like the story of the session was of government amendments on the power-grab being passed on the nod, while non-government amendments that would have made the Bill more reconcilable with the devolution settlement were withdrawn without even being put to a vote. That probably happened partly because no-one outside the SNP (who aren't represented in the Lords) is truly passionate about protecting devolution, and also because the UK government fobbed off the proposers of the amendments with the vague possibility that changes might still be made at Third Reading after further negotiations. I'm not an expert on parliamentary procedure, but a Google search reveals that amendments can indeed be made at Third Reading in the Lords, although in practice any such changes tend not to be substantive.
Here's the thing: at the start of the week, Richard Leonard made clear that the 'deal' on offer wasn't good enough and that the UK government would have to compromise further. So why on earth did Labour roll over in the Lords just two days later and effectively remove the last remaining obstacle (other than the Supreme Court) to the government imposing the existing 'deal' without Holyrood's consent? Labour and the Liberal Democrats between them outnumber the Tories in the Lords, so if the will had been there to defeat the government and strengthen Nicola Sturgeon's negotiating hand, that's probably what would have happened. Unless you truly believe that some heroic stand is suddenly going to be made at Third Reading, it's clear enough that the Labour leadership has put a directive out that the power-grab is to be enabled, not resisted. That means in the worst-case scenario, if the Continuity Bill is struck down by judges, Jeremy Corbyn will be the co-author along with Theresa May of a substantial reduction in the Scottish Parliament's powers. He shouldn't be allowed to conceal his responsibility for the decision he's made.
The House of Lords is also collectively culpable as an institution. We hear so much about how the Lords is "an anachronism that works" and how it functions counterintuitively as a guarantor of democracy. But that all depends on the strict adherence to conventions, without which the unwritten constitution would start to fall apart. Over the decades, the Salisbury Convention (requiring that the Lords must allow any manifesto commitment of the elected government to pass) has been more or less religiously followed. Why, then, are the Lords allowing a coach and horses to be driven through the equally important Sewel Convention, without which the devolution settlement is rendered a sham? If you're conceited enough to think you're an unelected custodian of the constitution, you can't arbitrarily pick and choose which parts of the constitution you think are worth the bother of upholding. Or if you do, you should expect unsettling consequences to flow.
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From what I've written above you can see that I hold no brief for Labour, but my eyes still rolled to the heavens a number of times overnight at Laura Kuenssberg's transparent attempts to get a "disaster for Labour in the local elections" narrative to take root. John McDonnell made a fairly unanswerable point at the start of the results programme - he reminded everyone that Labour took just 27% of the vote in the local elections last May, but then 40% in the general election only one month later, which should have been utterly impossible if the conventional wisdom was to be believed. But that reality-check didn't deter Ms Kuenssberg from breathlessly telling us throughout the night that Labour's performance was falling well short of what is supposedly "needed" to put the party on course for a general election victory. Question: if a 27% showing in May 2017 didn't preclude Labour from coming very close to victory in June 2017, why on earth would a mid-30s showing in May 2018 prevent Labour from winning an election that might still be two, three or four years away?
The reality is that the Corbyn surge at the general election was dependent on demographic groups that are less likely to turn out in local elections. The polarisation of public opinion on Brexit is perhaps also undermining the usual phenomenon of casual protest voting for opposition parties in mid-term elections. It's no longer the case that you can automatically say "Labour need to be twelve points ahead now if they want to win the general election by four." It may actually be that people voted yesterday in a very similar way to how they would have voted if they were electing a government.