Tuesday 24 April 2012

Off with their heads!

The hole into which Westminster politicians are digging themselves over House of Lords reform is a classic example of the disconnect between them and the rest of us.  To say that the question is not one which greatly exercises people outside the Westminster bubble is something of an understatement, yet some of those inside the bubble seem to think that the sky is about to fall in.
There’s something a little ironic about those who wish to maintain the current undemocratic system demanding a referendum so that we can democratically decide (they hope) to remain undemocratic.  But I find it hard to believe that the question of whether parliamentarians should be elected or not will be any more controversial outside parliament than was the question in last year’s referendum on the powers of the Assembly – or that it will attract any more interest.
Whilst the idea of electing parliamentarians, rather than having some take their seats through heredity and others through appointment, may look like a revolutionary idea to some of their lordships, most of the world would simply wonder how and why the current situation has been allowed to last so long.  And I have a feeling that most of the electorate will be closer to ‘most of the world’ than to their lordships on this occasion.
The reforms themselves seem to be something of a fudge.  Why are some appointees to be retained?  If we want outside experts to look at legislation and give us the benefit of their wisdom and experience, they can do that without being given a fancy title and a seat in parliament to go with it.  Why retain a special place for bishops of the CofE? 
And, most of all, have they even asked whether and why we need a second chamber at all?
The usual answer to that final question is that the first chamber seldom gets the legislation right.  But in any rational world, that would be an argument for reform of the first chamber, not for the perpetuation of a duplicate set of parliamentarians and debate.  Instead of arguing about how many ‘whatever-we-want-to-call-thems’ there should be, how they should be selected, and how much we should pay them, why not just abolish the whole thing?


Unknown said...

Polly Toybee says the same thing in the Guardian.

Abolition is the only sensible option. Anything else is just a bodge job, An extension on the extension on the extension. The mother of parliament's model is so successful it has been copied all over the world, by no countries at all!

As you say, expert comittees can be convened and their advice given statutory weight if that part of the lords needs to be continued, but the thought of Jeffrey archer legilslating on anything, and Sentinau pontificating and voting on homosexuality is just absurd.

Cibwr said...

I don't rule out bicamaralism as such - abolition can work if there are enough back benchers and expert advice through pre legislative evidence taking. Iceland and Norway used to have a second chamber made up of members of the first chamber, they acted as a revising chamber and if there was a dispute the two chambers sat as one. Both countries abolished them as they just duplicated processes