Friday, June 11, 2010
House of Lords Should Not be Clone of Commons
Having disagreed strongly with Simon Jenkins Wednesday, I find myself more or less agreeing with him today on House of Lords reform. He argues that a new, wholly elected House, via PR, would merely increase the power of party apparatchiks who would decide who would sit where in the party lists. This would only produce a clone of the Commons, thus causing a clash of legitimacy- some would say PR made the Lords more democratic therefore more legitimate- and therefore potential gridlock. Moreover power would still be focussed on those few at the apex of party power.
He argues the Lords should continue to be a subordinate chamber and one which dealt principally with deliberation and amendment, not legislation. I tend to agree- the Lords works well as an advisory, amending and revising chamber and any reform should retain these functions as its main role.
As for elections? I think it would be better if the Lords had a different representative role. Why not use it to represent the regions along the lines proposed by that well known political scientist, Billy Bragg. His idea is that party strength in the regions should be used to send representatives to the Lords:
"There's no need for further elections. You would go on election day with the same ballot paper, cast your vote for your preferred choice for MP and instead of your vote being discarded if you lose, it would be accumulated at a regional level and lead to representation for your region, for your party of choice in the second chamber." Quite.