Just one in 10 think Lords should remain unelected

The government has announced it will be launching a review into the powers of the House of Lords


Just one in 10 think the House of Lords should remain unelected, according to a new poll by the Electoral Reform Society.

The findings come after the government announced it will be launching a review into the powers of the House of Lords, led by Conservative hereditary peer Lord Strathclyde.

The former leader of the House of Lords told the BBC that the Lords had the “power but not the authority” to challenge the Commons over the issue, adding that they had behaved “deplorably” by seeking major changes to tax credits cuts.

According to the poll, by BMG Research almost half (48 per cent) of the public think the Lords should be an elected chamber, while nearly a quarter (22 per cent) back abolition. This compares to one in ten who back the status quo.

Commenting on the poll, deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society Darren Hughes said the public “want real reform of the House of Lords – not just tinkering around the edges”:

“The time for root and branch reform is now – it is simply wrong in a modern democracy for legislators to remain unelected.

“The government are tying themselves in knots over the question of Lords reform, with George Osborne saying he supports an elected upper house, while this review only looks at the issue of conventions. They shouldn’t be making changes to our constitution out of partisan interest, just because they lost a couple of votes – they have to deal with the crux of the matter: the make-up of the constitutional calamity that is the House of Lords.

“Instead of simply emasculating our revising chamber, they should ensure it has the legitimacy it needs to be a real check on executive power. That can only happen through electing it.”

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14 Responses to “Just one in 10 think Lords should remain unelected”

  1. David Lindsay

    People abroad must sometimes wonder why we do not riot against the existence of the House of Lords. But we are not much of a riotous lot. And if we were going to have riots, then they would be far more likely over the tax credit cuts that the Lords have just voted down, than over the House of Lords itself.

    Why do people think that that House is still full of toffs? That is the House of Commons. Britain is about to complete 35 years of Marxism in reverse: Thatcher and Blair defeated the proletariat on behalf of the bourgeoisie, and now Cameron and Osborne are planning to defeat the bourgeoisie (the businesspeople, academics, and senior public sector managers in the Lords) on behalf of the aristocracy.

    We have all mused on potential alternatives to the second chamber, and I myself have occasionally even been paid to do so, when there was no possibility that any of it might ever come to anything. Now, however, the threat is from that which is always the most ruthless section of our body politic, namely the Tory upper classes when they have been denied their own way. This time, therefore, it could happen. Almost certainly, that would mean a county-based House, elected by First Past The Post. An alternative really does need to be in place.

    Every six years, let each of the 99 lieutenancy areas elect three Senators, one Labour, one Conservative, and one Lib Dem, with each of those parties submitting its internally determined shortlist of two to the judgement of the electorate at large. A week later, or a week earlier, let each of the nine English regions elect 30 Senators, namely six Labour, six Conservatives, six Lib Dems, six from other parties that did not thereafter contest elections to the House of Commons, and six Independents to sit as Crossbenchers.

    Any member of the relevant party would be eligible to contest the first, second and third categories of election. Each of us would vote for one candidate, and the top six would be elected. The fourth category would be elected by party list, and the fifth by the same means as the first three, but open only to people who were members of no party.

    On the same day, let Scotland and Wales each elect five Labour, five Conservative, five Lib Dem, five Nationalist, five non-Commons other party, and five Crossbench Senators. And let Northern Ireland elect three from Labour, three from the Tories, three from the Lib Dems, three from the UUP, three from the DUP, three from the SDLP, three from Sinn Féin, three from the Alliance Party, three from non-Commons other parties, and three Crossbenchers.

    A grand total of 657 Senators. Quite large, but necessarily so, and much smaller than the House of Lords. Representation of the rural Labour vote, which would pose quite a challenge to many a local Tory oligarchy. Representation of the Unionist majority in Scotland. And representation of Northern Ireland within the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem bodies at Westminster.

    The aristocratic wing of the Conservative Party has been crossed, and it is merciless when that happens. It is going to propose some elected alternative, to its own satisfaction. That would not constitute an improvement.

  2. Giford

    Very detailed plan David – but on what basis Tory, Labour and Lib Dem guaranteed seats? Would UKIP or the SNP (or, more importantly, their supporters) be pleased to be ruled out of the upper chamber?

  3. Mark Myword

    It is all pie in the sky. The Lords will never be directly elected house – there are too many vested interests outside the Lords against that, and there is too little interest in the population at large. Reform of the Lords will come by gradual and incremental change – softly softly catchee monkey. Gradually the size will be capped and compulsory retirement introduced. Next it will remain mainly appointed, but some form of indirect election leading to appointment will be introduced – the model of the Bishops and remaining hereditaries gives an example. I doubt whether the indirect elections will use geographical constituencies; rather they will use constituencies of ‘interest or ‘expertise’. In broad terms – sciences, arts, politics, local government, medicine, religion etc. Finally, I cannot see any Prime Minister giving up his/her power to make appointments to the Lords; it offers too much power through patronage.

  4. David Lindsay

    Who asked them? But they wouldn’t be. Although UKIP is a busted flush, anyway. And Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all need to commit themselves to a referendum on Scottish independence during the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament, thereby calling out the cowardice of the SNP. That would also make possible a debate on something else instead. For example, the SNP’s woeful record of public service delivery.

    Moreover, the legislation providing for further devolution, legislation that will be purely Westminster, needs to ban parties from contesting elections to the House of Commons if they also contested elections to Holyrood. Everyone apart from the SNP would vote gleefully for that. Would the SNP then be prepared to be seen to be the only party to vote against Third Reading of the Bill giving effect to “The Vow”?

  5. Selohesra

    A tad arrogant to dismiss UKIP as busted flush – they got 60% more votes than Lib Dems at last GE – if anyone is busted flush it would be them

  6. David Lindsay

    From what I have been told this morning, I was right about what the Tories had in mind. First Past The Post by counties. In practice, almost everyone in the thing would be a blood relative of one, two or all three of David Cameron, Samantha Cameron and George Osborne. Just like the old days.

    The Lords have crossed the aristocratic wing of the Tory Party, which is by far the most ruthless part of the British body politic, and which is now determined to be rid of all those common little shopkeepers, schoolmasters, town clerks, and chaplains.

  7. David Lindsay

    UKIP went from two seats to one, that MP is barely in it, as a party it is banned from the official campaign to withdraw from the EU, and its Leader, who has failed seven times to be elected to Parliament, is now a talking head of popular television like someone off TOWIE, with an impending weekly radio phone-in programme.

  8. Mark Myword

    Who told you – David Icke?

  9. David Lindsay

    If you comment without having any sources, then that is not my problem. We are still a bit old-fashioned up here, even when dealing with that there London.

  10. blarg1987

    I admit I am in two minds about the House of Lords, reform is needed, however I have concerns about an elected House along the lines of election terms with mainstream parties or big private donations.

    The last thing we want is a house of commons and lords elected at the same time based on the same sentiment on certain policies only to fail in due diligence over other pieces of legislation.

    Also, the final concern is that when it comes for re election they may not be tempted to rock the boat on legislation that goes through the house that may be popular with he electorate but may be flawed and require due diligence.

  11. Bob Roberts

    No, no, no. The idea of a revising chamber is to think twice about the mistakes or the flaws that democracy might induce. If it was simply a second opinion on every law, then we’d be better off doubling the size of the Commons. The whole point of separate houses is to have separate functions

    If the Lords were made elected, it would simply become a mirror of the Commons, and become far more partisan than it is at the moment. What we need is processes to ensure that genuine merit as opposed to patronage is the criteria for entering the Lords, not to double up the flaws that democracy brings. Yes, democracy is the least-bad system of government. But genuine experts, revising and deliberating (not making policy) are needed to refine its worst excesses. The fact that the Lords is currently unelected means that it hardly ever blocks the will of an elected government, merely refines some of the finer points.

  12. Bob Roberts

    Exactly. The Lords need to quietly get on with their work, tweaking and refining, and deliberating in a less partisan atmosphere.

    I think that there needs to be term limits, a cap on numbers, and it needs to be ensured that 80% of them are crossbenchers. The Bishops and hereditary peers should go too. But if we were to make it elected, it would lose all of its purpose, and become nothing more than a mirror of the Commons, or an American-style block, making the country ungovernable.

  13. blarg1987

    Maybe part of the solution can be staggered elections, so not to replace them all at once that way it mitigates sentiments at a particular time on an issue.

  14. Bob Roberts

    I’d have thought that the Lords would be more aristocratic than the Commons. The Lords has hereditary peers, whilst the Commons is mainly full of professionals, businesspeople and political bag-carriers.

    Anyway, why should any party have guaranteed representation? Why should the Lords be so blatantly political? It is supposed to be a revising chamber.

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