What's happened to their Lordships. Has someone slipped something arousing into their china teacups? Suddenly the red benches are rising up from their slumber and taking up arms against the Government. There are two very big and very hot stories brewing up. It looks as if we are going to see another fireworks display on the banks of the Thames.
Firstly, there's more than a possibility that the House of Lords will attempt to force the Government to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. That's the one that used to be called a 'constitutional' treaty and on which Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives all promised the people of Britain a referendum. Its the treaty on which Labour reneged, and the rampant (I've had 30 women) Nick Clegg got his knickers in such a frightful twist. Now, we've quite often seen a row between the two Houses of Parliament, when a Government has tried to force through a controversial proposal that hadn't been in its manifesto. But this is the first time that I can remember the House of Lords trying to force a Government to stick to a manifesto commitment that it doesn't want to stick to. When Lord Lamont was asked if he thought Ministers had lied over the need for a referendum, he said "I hesitate to accuse people of being dishonest, but I would come close to it on this issue". Strong stuff. Perhaps when he speaks in the debate, he should accuse the Government of misspeaking - just to test whether the word is an acceptable Parliamentary term.
The other big issue emanating from the Lords is a report on the impact of immigration into the UK over recent years. We have become very used to all official reports claiming great economic benefit flowing from the huge level of immigration that has taken place since workers from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania etc started moving in . Tomorrow's report is the first significant Parliamentary challenge to this orthodoxy. I think its going to be a big story, which will get even bigger if the BNP performs as well in next months local Government elections as some of us fear.
As the Government increasingly seeks to force important issues through, paying scant regard to the wishes of either the people or sometimes even its own MPs, the House of Lords decides to ride to the rescue of democracy. Lets hope we see more. It gives hope that our system of democracy is strong enough to withstand the casual disregard in which out current Government holds it.