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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.

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