John Clark writes…
First published: August 2012 – Gazette & Herald
House of Lords reform has been festering for over a hundred years. The answer from the ConDem government is to elect several hundred politicians for a term of 15 years. If this is the answer then the question must be wrong.
Nick Clegg is proposing that the second chamber must be elected on a proportional basis. Political Parties would use the ‘party list system’. As a result the political leaders would have almost complete say over who was elected. This is remote, undemocratic and will produce even more party line toeing politicians with no experience in the working world. The current example is our MEPs. How many of us know how many and to which party they belong? Even harder – what are their names? The proposed House of Lords would be just like this but even worse and longer at 15 years.
House of Lords reform was in the Conservative and Lib Dem 2010 manifestos. The Lib Dems are so in favour that if House of Lords reform is withdrawn they are threatening to oppose the reduction in the number of MPs. More hypocrisy? If they believe in less MPs why would they not support that change?
How is this seen by the public? Most agree that the House of Lords needs reform. Few agree that it needs more elected politicians. None believe it is an urgent issue in the present economic mess.
What is needed? The House of Lords needs a group of people who will amend proposed laws; limit the excesses of political power; put forward ideas that elected politicians are too frightened to suggest. Would the present ConDem proposals achieve these aims? It is unlikely.
Politicians have failed to deliver. A radical solution is needed: What if 300 Senators were picked off the electoral register at random? I hear cries of: “We wouldn’t know who these people were”, “We didn’t elect them”, “Would they know what they were doing”. Well compare this with the popularity of MPs during the expenses scandal. How many in the House of Lords have we elected? How many in the House of Lords are known to the public?
The present House of Lords is made up of ex MPs, large party donors, party patronage and some are even descendents of the sexual indiscretions of previous kings of England. The public I have met don’t trust this lot. We trust our fellow citizens to find someone guilty or not guilty of murder. It must be worth a try to let the public replace the House of Lords. Clearly unlike the few weeks for a juror, a Senator would be a 4 years commitment. On this basis people could choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to whether they would take up the opportunity.
Ancient Greece involved the public in their democracy. Let’s involve the public in the House of Lords. Even if an experiment with public democracy failed over a 12 year period it would be a rapid decision.