Reforming the House of Lords

Lots of ideas floating around at the moment. Me, I favour some form of sortition (go and look it up!) and happen to think that being the descendant of someone who won a famous military victory some centuries back, the offspring of some particularly vicious medieval bandit, the fruit of the loins of some bribing  Edwardian brewer, is as valid a method of sortition as any other.

It brought us the 9 th Earl Nelson for example, who retired from working life as a Sergeant in the police, and I think there\’s recently been one who was a bus conductor.

I absolutely insist that such a return to the hereditaries only (those who do well can be ennobled, but their sitting in the House only starts with their children) would be better than this proposal:

Two, fill most of the House by going to professional bodies – Royal College of Nursing, BMA, unions, service associations, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, British Bankers\’ Association, Engineering Council, Federation of Master Builders, etc – and letting each choose one peer (temporary and renewable) from their number.

The biggest problem politics faces is that the interest groups, the power groups like the unions, the professional bodies, jealously guard their privileges. Putting them in political power over what those privileges will be will simply entrench them.

We also have a name for this system of government, corporatism. And in terms of political and economic power, corporatism is the basic structure of fascism.

No, me, I think being ruled by the offspring of those who had the wit to bribe Lloyd George is a more attractive prospect.

9 thoughts on “Reforming the House of Lords”

  1. The corporatist proposal you link to is appalling- it would literally entrench the corporate state permanently in our constitution. And even if we are stupid enough to desire such corporatism, who decides which corporate bodies should be represented? The BMA? The temperance-infested doctor’s trade union? Why? I really cannot think of anything worse.

    My own proposal has been for some time that it should be a genuine lottery-selected house. Have a register which one may join, or simply have a lottery of the entire electorate, with an opt-out option for those who would find elevation the Lords ruinous at that moment in time in their life. Have half the house selected annually. Do not give them legislative power, but give them an absolute veto power- that is, if the Lords refuse the legislation, it is as dead as a parrot.

    Such a house would contain a reasonable sample of the people of the country- many would be stupid, ignorant, vainglorious, mad, lazy or incompetent, but as such it would be no worse than the useless tribe infesting the Commons, and it would at least be a closer measure of the will of the people, whatever that is.

    Better still, just abolish the legislative power altogether. We don’t need any more laws. I can’t think of a single law enacted in the past 30 years that had merit. Let’s just close the parliament and flog it off to be turned into a megapub. At least that would bring some people some happiness, which its current role consistently fails in achieving.

  2. I’m with IanB… Let “ERNIE” draw a random set of “Lords” from a lottery of NI Numbers. Perhaps it might be an idea to insist that those chosen pass a basic test of IQ and literacy / numeracy (though that could be a serious cull amongst totdays younger persons) and maybe insist on a minimum age of about 30. I quite like the idea of a power of absolute veto but no legislative role, but wonder what would replace the upper house’s “revising” powers.

    It’ll never happen of course. We’ll eith continue with appointed cronies or an elected chamber as free of political bias and sleaze as the US Senate.

  3. The revising powers probably do more harm than good, since they tend to encourage a kind of horse trading compromise situation; you get an appalling law, there is a fight over the worst of its provisions, and the rest go through.

    Part of the problem with legislation is what one might call combo bills (I’m sure there is a proper term) in which one “law” is actually a myriad of laws bundled together- the American system seems to be particularly afflicted with these. So you have a piece of legislation which combines horsewhipping of paedophiles with a ban on chain-link fencing, and it gets voted through because of the first thing, and the stupid second part gets through as a piggy-back.

    I thus would also propose a constitutional requirement that no law may be longer than a single side of A6 paper, with the law written in 14 point Times, with no abbreviations allowed.

    Some kind of a ban on enabling acts would be good as well, the “the Minister will make such regulations and provisions as may be required” bullshit.

  4. It never ceases to puzzle me that family experience is a selling point for butchers, fishmongers and the like, but a device of the devil when it comes to politics. For sure, the Salisburys and the Benns (to be bipartisan about it) know more about how politics works than the average punter. This is not an argument for professional politicians, just for tapping accumulated expertise, and perhaps for Chesterton’s ‘tradition, the democracy of the dead.’

  5. I wasn’t aware there were family butchers, bakers and the like who didn’t have to face any competition. All that is like is saying that sons or daughters of MPs might make good MPs, something Tim was quite critical of last week.

  6. I quite like the lottery idea also. But there should be some constraints on who can be entered, such as British citizenship, no criminal record, no bankrupts, minimum of ten years in paid, full time employment, or five in the armed forces. Throw out the existing lot altogether. Then bring in the lottery selectees, and give them a five year term limit. Maybe every year randomly select 20% of them for replacement.

    No political appointees. No whips. No pensions. No title. No expenses. No quotas. No creche. No shooting gallery.

    Hall of residence accomodation with free meals, free broadband, and free transport. We might as well put that Olympic Village to some bloody use after the games.

    Salary £70K.

    Duties: Debate attendance not less than 70% unless serving on select committees.

    Powers: By simple majority- referral of commons legislation for revision. By 70% majority- veto power, resulting in a binding referendum.

    Strikes me, this would be much more like a jury….

  7. Well, at one time I thought of calling the idea “the People’s Jury”, but that sounded appallingly New Labourish. I’m not sure why so many qualifications would be needed though. For instance, no criminal record. I don’t see why getting caught with some dope 30 when you were a student should put you on a blacklist for life. Especially as we currently live in a society where it’s almost impossible to not break some pettiflogging law. I changed a socket in my elderly neighbour’s kitchen a few months ago (I’m a qualified, experienced electrician but no longer working as one so am not a member of the State Guild).

    Hall of residence accomodation? Institutional catering? Hmm. I think that would be rather off putting to a lot of people. I wouldn’t like it.

  8. “Institutional catering?”

    They get pretty well catered for at the Palace of Westminster, with it’s various restaurants. And isn’t that where they are supposed to be all day anyway?

    Strikes me all they need in their flat is a microwave kettle and toaster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *