March 08, 2007

A night of good results; Democracy at last?

  • Man United go through to the Quarter Finals of the Champions’ League
  • Arsenal go crashing out to PSV
  • Oh, and the House of Commons votes for a fully-elected House of Lords.

I might be a Man U fan, but it’s the third result which I’m most pleased about. Given the recent debacle surrounding nominations to the House of Lords – as well as its countless historical anomalies – it’s high time the Lords was made accountable to the public and relevant to the 21st Century.

For sure, the Lords themselves will reject the plans. But even though the electorate will be wary of yet another round of elections, I think there’ll be a lot of support for kicking out the hereditaries.

But I have a solution which I’ve been kicking around for a few years. The Lords should be elected by Proportional Representation, using the same votes from the General Election. Votes would be added up nationally and a party list system would be used. It would keep the tradition of having ‘experts’ in the second chamber, rather than just useless party grandees.

True, the leading party in the Commons would probably have the majority in the Lords, but counting votes rather than seats would dramatically reduce the bias in favour of the winning party. Additionally, you could give Lords 8-10 year terms, with only half re-elected each time there was a general election. That would provide continuity and dampen the effect of fluctuations in the Commons’ composition.

Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, should be congratulated for achieving the result he did tonight. If the House of Lords is reformed to the extent voted for today, it would almost certainly be Labour’s most memorable achievement since the formation of the NHS.


- 13 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. I don’t like the idea of list PR, it means we’ll end up with another chamber full of people whose loyalty is to their party rather than to the electorate. Better in my view to elect them by STV. That way you’re voting for the candidate whom you think will do the best job rather than indirectly voting for someone who will toe the line.

    08 Mar 2007, 02:55

  2. Leighton Joskey

    What is the benefit of two chambers given legitimacy by the exact same electorate?

    If you want PR, why not argue for a one chamber only system, composed according to PR? (If you can ever decide which flavour suits best)

    I personally like having two chambers who have very different agendas (checks and balances and what not) and simply making them both elected doesn’t particularly improve that.

    08 Mar 2007, 11:21

  3. “Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, should be congratulated for achieving the result he did tonight. “

    I am not sure that this was the result he was actually after – I thought he wanted the 80/20 split, not 100%.

    Anyhoo – I agree to an extent with Leighton. Replicating the Commons to the Lords adds what exactly. Maybe the best solution would be to require members of the Lords to have no affiliation to a political party – all sit as independents with no whip from the parties.

    08 Mar 2007, 11:41

  4. Miles

    The hereditary system has worked for nearly a thousand years. Why change now? If we really must change (believing of course that we know much better than anyone in the past has) then SURELY the answer is not another elected chamber which will simply reflect the balance of power in the commons. Britain has never had a dictator or a continental model revolution, largely because the system of checks and balances (the sea-anchor effect) which the mostly impartial Lords provides has always ensured moderation. But what the hell, no one ever listens to me anyway.

    08 Mar 2007, 12:02

  5. Maybe the best solution would be to require members of the Lords to have no affiliation to a political party – all sit as independents with no whip from the parties.

    I’ve thought this for a while. It’s debatable, in my view, what exactly entrenched political parties actually add to democracy that makes their existence worthwhile. In my view we should have an upper chamber of 100 or 200 elected on staggered terms which come to three Parliaments whose members are elected by STV PR and who cannot have party affiliations. Then, the Commons, elected under the current system (albeit cut in size to about 450) limited to a three-year fixed term. There should be term limits so that no one can serve more than the equivalent of two of the longer terms without then spending the equivalent of one of the longer terms outside Parliament. And pretty much any other measures anyone can come up with to avoid the situation whereby politicians come to believe that they have some kind of right to power.

    The hereditary system has worked for nearly a thousand years.

    Define ‘worked.’ I’d argue that there have been several notable failures which have significantly contributed to a number of major problems. And that’s not even bringing in the argument about how ludicrous hereditary political power is.

    If we really must change (believing of course that we know much better than anyone in the past has) then SURELY the answer is not another elected chamber which will simply reflect the balance of power in the commons.

    Plenty of people in the past thought the situation was ridiculous too. Why do you think that most other countries in the world did away with hereditary political power one or two centuries before we did? Anyway, by that argument changing anything ever is an act of arrogance and condescension towards our forebears. Just because something has been done one way for 800 years is no reason to continue doing it that way if such a system has outlived its usefulness. We need a second chamber which can legitimately stand up to overwheening governments like this one, and a load of conservative toffs who have been brought up to believe in benevolent paternalism but who, at the end of the day, are only there because of who their ancestors were don’t fit the bill.

    08 Mar 2007, 12:41

  6. “We need a second chamber which can legitimately stand up to overwheening governments like this one, and a load of conservative toffs who have been brought up to believe in benevolent paternalism but who, at the end of the day, are only there because of who their ancestors were don’t fit the bill.”

    Problem is an elected chamber would probably be more inclined to toe the party line than the current unelected chamber which has shown a surprising ability to ignore the wishes of the elected house. Indeed, the unelected house has probably been more challenging in terms of policy than the fawning sops of the commons.

    My fear is that an elected house would become a poor version of the commons and we will end up with both an ‘overwheening’ commons and an ‘overwheening’ lords, or whatever they will call it. The fact of the upper house not necessarily being dependent on the party machine to sustain it means it actually retains a greater degree of independence. Hence my feeling that if it is to be elected then the political party system needs to be kept at a distance.

    People have a lot of passionate feelings about the Lords, but I think if you get beyond the class war rhetoric you might find something that is a bloody sight more independent and concerned with effective legislation than otherwise might appear to the casual observer. That’s not to say that reform is not necessary, but we should be super cautious of falling into a model that just replicates the worst elements of our system.

    08 Mar 2007, 21:33

  7. Tom, that’s why I said that the second chamber should be non-party political and elected by STV.

    08 Mar 2007, 21:47

  8. Dave

    Every 3 years? By’eck, thats a lot of elections for politicians who will barely settle long enough to work before they start campaigning again. Rather expensive too until the electorate have reason to trust online voting or similar.

    Personnally I appreciate the Lords for the job they’ve done over the last decade or so, so not too keen on changing the formula, but if the electorate want greater accountabillity then I guess they’ll get it (although I bet if you go out and ask a load of real people the Lords’ accountability will not be highest on the political worryings – if indeed it features at all).

    We have an upper house with a decent number of inteligent people who by and large do what is right without kowtowing to the will of the ‘other place’, and I fully support a long and extended investigation of how to preserve/improve this situation. This debate and initial free vote is the start of a long process, and shalln’t be summed up any time soon I trust.

    09 Mar 2007, 01:21

  9. Dave, as others have said, if you’re going to have two elected chambers, there’s no point having both exactly the same. You have to understand that my general opinion on power is that it should be made as hard as possible for anyone to exercise it, in order to try to ensure that they exercise it judiciously. Thus, on the one hand, you have continuity in the upper house (with very long nine-year terms), and accountability in the lower with triennial Parliaments. But crucially you have two elected houses who would have a clear mandate to throw out legislation they felt unsuitable, and one house whose members owe their position entirely to the electorate rather than a party machine. Having watched this government, I believe that at least part of Parliament’s duty should be to ensure that we are not over-governed, and having two houses of this character (similar to the American system) would almost certainly ensure a saner burden of legislation. We have, at times in this country, had Parliaments limited by statute to as little as three years or as much as seven years, so the precedents are there. However, at the same time, in my view eighteen years is more than enough time for anyone to be in Parliament without a break; after all, if they spend their entire lives at Westminster, how will they know how the other half live? Too long in Parliament leads to ossification, growing obsession with the Westminster village, and in many cases a growing conviction that political power is a right they possess rather than a trust from the voters. It would mean that ambitious young apparatchiks wouldn’t simply be able to find a safe seat and defend it until doomsday, and that a steady stream of new blood would enter the legislature in order to try to maintain some contact between people and their representatives.

    09 Mar 2007, 03:09

  10. Dave

    Cool :)

    I think perhaps it shouldn’t be too hard to exercise political power, they are the ones we’ve vested with the power after all – but then again the checks and balances are needed. Also I still think it may be harder for such a quickly shifting political cycle to really have it’s eye on the long term game, unless of course the lower house figured that the upper house won’t pass things unless due heed is given to the long view, but thats getting to speculation. Besides that quite like your general opinions on the subject

    09 Mar 2007, 05:25

  11. You can’t trust the parties to select candidates, because then we suffer toadies in the HoL. You can’t trust the people to elect them because they’ll either elect the people they’re told to elect by a party or they’ll choose in terms of face value.

    The system works well as it is. I’d prefer a bunch of competent arseholes in the HoL (I’m repulsed by the notion of monarchy, aristocracy, nobility etc.) than incompetent politicians or, worse, labour/conservative lackeys in there.

    09 Mar 2007, 13:11

  12. Well done boys for picking up on the important things Doidge decides to ignore.

    Your hopes, “it’s high time the Lords was made accountable to the public and relevant to the 21st Century.”,
    then your proposal, ” A party list system would be used”,
    which represents exactly the rape of the farce of democracy that you are saying you belive in. Simply disappointing.
    Parks is correct.

    The Joskey correctly pulls you up for this:
    “What is the benefit of two chambers given legitimacy by the exact same electorate?”

    “Miles” is trolling, obviously.

    Hamid is down the right route, but I’d suggest decentralising the selection process to where the people are actually drawn from. Let’s say we want x number of “experts” from a certain field, we appeal to that field to select. Repeat till house is full. Repeat every 7 years.

    Given the recent record of the House of Lords, I think there is ample reason to want a second chamber that is not elected by the general, idiotic, public, or picked by political parties for loyalty. The appointed experts idea goes some way to realising power based on knowledge and conscience, instead of furthering a pathetic disgrace of so-called “democracy”, in which people like Chris Doidge and other political journalists can talk of “accountability”, “legitimacy”, “democracy” as if they exist, and still be taken seriously by many people.

    09 Mar 2007, 15:19

  13. no? no response?

    16 Mar 2007, 01:50


Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

Twitter Go to 'Twitter / chrisdoidge'

Tetbury Online

Most recent comments

  • To quote from PM Cameron's speech at Munich Security Conference on the failure of State Multicultura… by on this entry
  • Not sure whether their installation can do that (though I assume it will), but I personally have a D… by Pierre on this entry
  • Yup. The figure at the end I guess isn't so much a sign of falling standards, as failing policy. by on this entry
  • Didn't the compulsory GCSE in a language get ditched a few years back? by on this entry
  • Yeah, that was a Brown–like kiss of death. by on this entry

Search this blog

Blog archive

Loading…

Tags

March 2007

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Feb |  Today  | Apr
         1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31   
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIX