Darn those old cronies who sit in their opulent comfort, getting in the way of Government business, let’s reform them and do away with their dastardly medalling. Or that’s what the Lib Dems would like anyway. At first I thought I agreed, but now I’m not so sure. If nothing else, for such a fundamental change, the electorate should be consulted.
The Lords, that chamber of dear octogenarians (wildly generalising statement), is made up of people who have inherited the right, or have been made a Lord in their lifetime and are a major step in the development of Government bills. They have the same reading, amending and voting process as the Commons, the only real difference being that the Commons can vote to ignore the Lords should it wish.
Given that it does the same job, then who on earth should it not be elected? Who gives these silver spooned toffs the right to oversee the elected in government of the day. However is this a really fair statement? Many of the Lords are politicians who have battled it out on the commons floor and so have a lot of experience and knowledge about what goes on. Others have been made Lords because of their life experience and can contribute in their way. Other have been a lord for a long time so bring that wealth of experience into the house. It can also be said that the Lords is much more of a “grown up” house, where things are considered on merit and there is less of the childish name calling and bullying that goes on in the commons.
When you get past your preconceptions about what the make up of the Lords actually is, then I think we have a real gem of an institution. I think there is a question to ask over hereditary peers, but there is an argument to be made over genetics and passing on knowledge to your children (but that’s by no means a given) but regardless, if you do sit in the house, then you should stay until you decide to resign. The body of experience that sits in that house can be a real force for good that can take a sensible view of bills going through the house.
For me, the one change I would be interested in exploring is making it a non party political house. Not so easy in practice, but as a Parish Council is supposed to be non party aligned, maybe some merit could be made in the Lords following similar ideas.
Aside from that, I would like to see the Lords largely remain as it is, and not turn into the Party centric playroom that is the Commons. Because of this, and the fundamental role it plays in the process it is as key a decision as changing our voting system I think there should be a referendum on the change if it is to go ahead. I think it’s very hypocritical of Nick Clegg to be so dismissive of a referendum, just because he will receive 2 answers; firstly not that many people really care that much one way or the other, secondly that the majority who do vote will want the status quo. He can not afford another result like the AV referendum.