Thursday, February 08, 2007

Emasculating the Lords

If the government is to be believed, its new white paper, The House of Lords: Reform, is an attempt to strike a balance between making the 700-year-old upper chamber more democratic without creating a rival to the House of Commons. MPs are to have a free vote before Easter on options ranging from a fully appointed chamber to a 20 to 100 per cent elected element. I say it openly- I have problems with the idea of the House of Lords. In its current form, it is too often an ermine-ridden quango populated by the clapped out, the unelectable and the unspeakable. Well, at least as far as its non-Tory members are concerned. In a genuine representative democracy, any and all politicians should be elected.
And yet the Lords are the only ones who have managed to stop some terribly stupid legislation from getting passed ( See here and here and here ) There clearly needs to be some "body" to prevent Governments (of whatever party) from acting as they wish all the time. The HoL has been a useful check on the excesses and self-interest of the HoC. It is not the notion of reform that concerns me but the fact that Jack Straw is driving it, having noted his earlier 'successes' at the Home Office and Iraq. Straw yesterday came under fire from Theresa May, the Shadow Commons leader, who described the package as a "lowest common denominator" solution which would satisfy no-one and perpetuate cronyism. Theresa May is clearly right. And I doubt whether Labour is entirely behind Straw's proposals. Obviously, in their hearts many Labourites believe that total abolition of the House of Lords would be preferable to retaining the status quo.
To my way of thinking, it shouldn't be within the HoC's power to re-structure the Upper House anyway, changes that affect the way the country is governed should be approved by referendum and not be at the whim of the current Prime Minister and his Cabinet. It is interesting too that the current government suddenly desires to reform a house which has become such a bane to its existence and in particular has brought this Prime Minister to the brink of total disgrace…


Newmania said...

Good summary IT, I like the examples you reference as well.I have taken to filing your links in my byzantine system.Very handy. I think PR for the Lords is the best way to go and may be it could be a bun to throw at the Lib scum. You can`t have aappoinyments in the middle of an electoral system though.Parties will be more important and it would be mayhem at divisions with some bought votes

I think of it this way

I have Croydonian as a wily spinner keeping the over rate up.

CU and IT are the fast medium pairing

Ellee makes the tea afterwards

PHITCH exposes himself to the WAGS

I may

james higham said...

I agree with your last point about the referendum. The politicos should not interfere in any way whatever. Where I disagree is that the hereditary peers have every right to be there - it is, after all, the House of Lords and as a conservative, I think no good can come out of changing the structure for the sake of it.

Ellee said...

A lot of people don't know what the Lords, let alone their MPs. I'm wondering if they have to vote on amendments to Acts that go through Parliament, ie the IoF Act which is under scrutiny right now. They may prefer to see a less open culture in the Westminster village.

Ellee said...

Hey what's this all about, Ellee makes the tea afterwards?

istanbultory said...

Thanks, N. James, it is interesting the way this government has prefaced major constitutional changes such as Scottish and Welsh devolution with a referendum but they seem to have no interest in doing so regarding the Lords. Go figure. They certainly would prefer to see a less open culture in the Westminster village. I fear thats their end-goal.
Ellee, you are of course right.

Newmania said...

Hey what's this all about, Ellee makes the tea afterwards?

oops that was a sexist implication wasn`t it . I detest sexism . For example I would like to stop this business of women getting less prize money at wimbledon. It should all go in one pot and they should all play eachother.

That would be fair...(snicker snicker)......same with golf

IT you are going to have to start deleting some of this of topic nonsense.

Incidentally I have considerable sympathy for what James H says

CityUnslicker said...

A googly:

whilst in the EU, with 80% of our legislation emanating from Europe surely we should scrap the house of Lords and look to Strasbourg?

Now that is out the way. If we are to reform the House then we should go back to direct democracy.

Your idea of referendum is genius and I entirely agree.

grumpy said...

Whatever one's views about the peerage, the one good thing about the House of Lords has always been that, being unelected, it had no need to concern itself with what the ruling party of the day felt it had to do to keep the electorate sweet.
Straw's ideas, like so many of NuLab's 'reforms' are an ill-considered effort to take the heat off the party by pandering to the old left.
The big problem for us all is that once the country has seen sense and rid itself of these parasites, their legislation will be impossible to reverse.