Making a dog’s dinner of Lords reform

That Jack Straw’s innovative voting system for Lords reform has been rejected, is almost certainly a good thing. It would have removed Parliament’s right to reject the legislation outright and, while Lords reform should be a major priority, the current proposals should be rejected.

The circle that nobody seems able to square is that however the Lords is reformed it mustn’t usurp the Commons. And the Commons claim to greater legitimacy is derived from its being the democratic chamber. Consequently, the House of Lords must be reformed in such a way that its claim to democratic legitimacy is weak-ish.

So while the life and hereditary peerages who contribute most to making a nonsense of democracy are to go, those who are elected will not be brought to account again for fifteen years. Given that a week is a long time in politics, fifteen years is an epoch. And given that elected Lords can’t stand for a second term, they’ve nothing to fear from the electorate and can do as they please once in place.

Despite the inevitability of appointees creating a whiff of corruption, still the chamber will be at least partially appointed and bishops will stay by virtue of their superstitions.

Let’s hope this initiative fails, because if it succeeds we’ll be stuck with a rubbish chamber for generations to come. We’ve been waiting since 1911 for this process to reach a conclusion. What’s a few more years?

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