House of Lords reform: a turning tide

The House of Lords works pretty well and arguably most recent reforms have made it a little less good at its work. Making it an elected house might well scupper it. Here is a very brief account of the reforms we need, and those we don’t…

Lords reform is bedevilled by political correctness and populism. Thus, supporting the idea of an elected Lords gets easy approval and that appeals to some players. Others are equivocal. Many prefer drift and inaction sooner than risk making the Lords worse by reforiming it in the direction of en elected h

(1) Any House of Lords, even a hereditary one, is thoroughly democratic and legitimate. Just as the Crown is a democractic arrangement, so the House of Lords exists solely because the House of Commons allows it to.

(2) The Lords is a revising chamber and needs to be respected and a little feared by the Commons, but it must not be like the Commons, or compete with it, or be hated by it.

(3) The Lords needs to know its politics but be above, aside from, and quite wary of party politics.

(4) An elected Lords would probably be more aligned with political parties than it is now.

(5) We can easily devise a Lords Appointments Commission which could appoint people to membership of the Lords. It could be as public and transparent as we like. Its brief could easily be to balance expertise, experience, minorities, and even ordinariness, an element of party structure, and so on, as we like.

I think that’s about it. Luckily, it seems that a growing number of valuable voices is on this case. I fear too few stress that the Lords needs to be elitist and non-elected: they dread saying anything so controversial.

The sensible camp is led by the peers Boothroyd and Norton of Louth. (I’ll do a proper roll-call when I have a moment.)

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Publication date

23 June 2011