The Lords needs accountability, not "one person, one vote, once"
MPs of whatever political allegiance should strike down the Lib Dem's ill conceived House of Lords reform bill for the sake of meritocracy
The issue of Lords reform has certainly got people excited,at least in the political classes – the people of Britain themselves do not seem much concerned, which may in itself be telling us something.
Personally, I believe meritocracy is fundamental to the future of Britain, and that the way the Lords is currently constructed is an impediment to a truly meritocratic society. Though there are many fine people in the Lords, there are far too many who are there due to the kind of cronyism we would be appalled at if it happened in some far flung country in the former Soviet Union or sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of the current bill before Parliament, it is clear that there is considerable unease among Conservatives. Many will vote against the government’s plans today and if the Prime Minister knows what is good for him he will not make a big issue out of their defiance.
What is at least as interesting, though less remarked upon,is the attitude of the Liberal Democrats who inspired the plans in the first place. For looking at it through the prism of the “progressive“ mindset it almost beggars belief that Nick Clegg and company could have used their much vaunted, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to alter the British constitutional set-up with such a half-baked proposal.
People of goodwill can disagree about whether or to what extent the Lords needs reforming. Should members of the upper house be directly elected? Should they be indirectly elected in some way? Should they have limited terms, rather than holding the position for life as they do now?
Do we need radical reform at all given that the Lords (according to this view) is essentially a revising chamber where expertise that might otherwise be missed can be drawn into the political system while leaving the real power with the Commons?
These are all the sorts of intelligent and reasonable questions that people can and should be discussing. So what on earth possessed the Liberal Democrats to push for a bill which would give elected members of the House of Lords a one-time 15 year mandate?
Since when did “one person, one vote, once“ become the guiding principle of Lib-Dem thinking on constitutional reform? For that is what this bill would effectively entrench.
You have the right to vote for your “Senator“ but you only have the right to vote for him or her once. Said Senator then gets into the Lords in the full knowledge that however appallingly they betray the people who voted for them, there is no way they can be held accountable since they are there for a decade and a half anyway, after which they have to step down.
It is genuinely baffling how such a ludicrous proposal could have been formulated in the first place, and it is equally perplexing that, should it go through, Liberal Democrats, never mind Conservatives, could view it as a victory for accountability.
Surely Britain can do better than this. MPs of whatever political allegiance should strike down this ill conceived bill and think up a better one.
Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1
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