What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office?

The way ex-MPs get recycled courtesy of a seat in the House of Lords is often reported, but the democratic offensiveness of it is rarely commented on.

Mark Pack is the co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice

The voters have cast their verdict and an MP is out of office. What should happen to them next? Most people’s answers to that are somewhere on the spectrum from the polite (let them tidy up their affairs and see their staff properly treated as their contracts end) through to answers best not to be repeated before the watershed.

But our political system has a remarkable answer.For a lucky group, the answer to being voted out of parliament is to say to them “now you’ve been voted out, you can have a seat in parliament for life instead”.

The way ex-MPs get recycled back into parliament courtesy of a seat in the House of Lords is often reported, but the democratic offensiveness of it is rarely commented on. Voted out? Have a seat for life.

I don’t begrudge the defeated politicians who take up the offer because, after all, if they say “no” then their own party usually cannot transfer the offer to another person. Moreover, some rescued defeated MPs of all parties have turned out to be great members of the Lords.

But it’s right up there with the duck houses in showing a political class out of touch with basic common-sense to think it is acceptable to stick with a system where defeat doesn’t mean defeat but means a seat for life instead.

I can go to a polling station, vote an MP out of office and then find a few months later that they now can vote on the laws I have to live by and the public services I have to use for the rest of their life.That’s not democracy – and that’s one of the reasons why reformers of all stripes should unite behind the government’s proposals for reforming the Lords.

On a subject like this there are of course many details to argue over, and even some important principles (bishops or not?) but after a century of failed attempts to bring in elections for the upper house, we shouldn’t let a search for perfection be the enemy of getting major change.

Amongst the opponents, including yes some Liberal Democrat peers (and hence the grassroots Liberal Democrats for Lords Reform group), there is a canny understanding of the power of divide and conquer, trying to persuade some reformers to back off because what is proposed isn’t quite 100 per cent of their own preferred package.

But look at the lesson of those who took such a view in the 1960s and opposed Lords reform proposals then; the next 50 years showed how wrong that decision was. With all three parties nominally in favour of Lords reform and a package being put before parliament this is our best chance in a century finally to spread democracy to the other half of parliament.

Unlock Democracy is running an online petition in support of Lords Reform which you can sign here.

15 Responses to “What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office?”

  1. The Grim Reaper

    "@leftfootfwd: What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office?: //bit.ly/kQokFD <- feed them to sharks?

  2. Andrew Breading

    What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office?: //bit.ly/kQokFD writes @markpack

  3. Andrew Taylor

    What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office?: //bit.ly/kQokFD writes @markpack

  4. Mark Pack

    RT @leftfootfwd: What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office? //t.co/8VjltBq < Guest post from me

  5. optimismsaturation

    If you really believe in democracy then don’t reform the House of Lords: abolish it.

    Having an elected second chamber sounds very nice and democratic. But unless both chambers are elected exactly the same way (in which case there is no point in having two chambers!), the point of an elected second chamber is to fragment and confuse democracy. Holding two different kinds of elections all the time means the people’s voice never comes out united and clear: the point seems to be to stop the masses getting their grubby hands on all of the legislature at once.

    Being elected will give the Lords more legitimacy to challenge the Commons. But this deadlock between the two chambers will be resolved, not by the people, but by elite bargaining and committee negotiations in smoky rooms. It will only encourage further isolation of the political class from the people.

    If you believe in people power, then let the people have power through one voice in one democratic chamber.

  6. Chris Jenkinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office? //t.co/WHum5Ob < good article by @markpack

  7. Niklas Smith

    RT @leftfootfwd: What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office? //t.co/WHum5Ob < good article by @markpack

  8. Itsmotherswork

    "@leftfootfwd: What shld happen to MP who is voted out of office?: //t.co/uaZzj8r <- they shld get a 'proper' job!
    HT @grimreaperblog

  9. matthew fox

    More nonsense from Mark Pack, he won’t complain when Nick Clegg is being recycled into Lord Clegg. 4 years and counting.

  10. James Graham

    What should happen to an MP who is voted out of office? By @markpack on @leftfootfwd //bit.ly/iTGimZ #lordsreform

  11. mr. Sensible

    I am totally opposed to an elected upper house, and given the reaction of Nick Clegg’s own peers…

  12. Denis Cooper

    If you’re going to ask “What should happen to an MP who gets voted out?” then you should also ask “Why has he been voted out?”.

    It may be that enough of his constituents have realised that he’s useless as an MP, or it may be nothing at all to do with his personal qualities but simply down to disillusionment with his party at the national level, and it may even be that for the first time a minor party has put up a candidate and taken away a small but crucial slice of support.

    And one could ask similar questions about the MPs who have kept their seats, and about the new MPs.

    The reality is that popular election is very much a rough and ready method for choosing law-makers, often installing or retaining poor law-makers while blocking or removing people who would be better law-makers, but nonetheless in the longer term it’s still preferable to allowing some narrow section of society to appoint its law-makers.

  13. Norman Lamont is an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed

    […] why the Lords should be reformed, for he is just the sort of MP I had mind when writing a piece for Left Foot Forward last year: The voters have cast their verdict and an MP is out of office. What should happen to them next? […]

  14. Norman Lamont is an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed

    […] However, he is also an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed, for he is just the sort of MP I had mind when writing a piece for Left Foot Forward last year: […]

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