Thursday, March 08, 2007
House of Lords....
I was very surprised to hear about the majority of MPs last night voting for a wholly elected second chamber. It rather took me aback. It must partly be due to the cash for honours scandal, which lost the chamber any shreds of credibility it still possessed. Blair had simply been replacing hereditary peers with his own cronies.
I support this move in principal. I can't think who would defend the House of Lords as it is presently constituted, as it is undemocratic by it's very nature. Then again I do believe in the need for some kind of a second chamber. Giving the commons all the power would not do, as something is needed to keep the government in check. It would result in too much concentration of power.
The issue is on how a second chamber is going to run as not to resemble a mirror image of the commons. It should be somewhat different in it's composition. If it is to be directly elected then a large number of independents (not affiliated to any political party) should be given room to stand, along with some from smaller parties that would benefit from proportional representation. Voting reform should be another thing on the agenda, another issue that has been delayed for years. Most candidates for the second chamber should be people with a track record in a profession such as law or academia, or another field that does the public a service such as medicine or the trade unions. Spokespeople from religious organisations should be allowed to stand but their numbers should of course be limited. A wholly elected second chamber should mean that the Anglican bishops do not automatically get a seat, especially when it is not even the majority faith among those who are religious. How the candidates are to be selected is another issue, as is when the elections would take place. They should be held at a different time from the commons vote, by all account.
It is worthwhile to bear in mind that this is not yet cut and dried. There may well be opposition, not just from the Lords but by rebel MPs. It may end with something of a compromise, such as 20% appointed and 80% elected.