In 2012 House of Lords reform failed. In 2013 it’s time for Liberal Democrats to show their continuing commitment to democratic reform.
We clearly can’t get the law changed at the moment but we can make a clear, unambiguous statement of intent. It’s just simple democracy and it’s easy; the membership should elect the Liberal Democrat candidates for the Lords. One simple motion at the party conference and a bit of commitment from the leadership is all it takes.
Well of course it’s not that simple, so let’s examine a few of the arguments against and the counter arguments:
This is just internal party business why bother with it?
The point is to make a public statement of our principles and our intent. Done properly it is a strategic political move.
Do we believe in democracy or don’t we?
The public won’t see our internal elections as having any particular legitimacy
This is a necessary first step towards wider electoral reform.
It demonstrates that we have real principles and are prepared to act on them.
The majority of the public are either hostile to Lords reform or think that it is irrelevant; we need to focus on issues that resonate with large sections of the public
Absolutely, but we need to do this as well
We will never persuade anyone of the need for Lords reform unless we demonstrate our own commitment to it.
The leadership should be allowed to appoint at least some candidates
That would be a gift for our opponents.
The membership elects PPCs and council candidates; what is so special about the Lords?
We risk losing the experience and expertise of senior party figures and of other excellent candidates
There is no reason why they could not stand for election.
There are other roles in the party.
Some excellent candidates are unwilling to put themselves up for election.
Ditto councillors, MPs, MEPs etc.
When we do achieve Lords reform, candidates are going to have to stand for public election.
The world is in crisis; we should be focussing on dealing with that.
The work to set up the welfare state was done in the middle of a World War. If they could do that then, we can do this now.
We already have an interim peers panel election process in place
An excellent starting point. Now let’s finish the job.
Our selections could be vetoed during the appointment process
We would have a panel of candidates, so individual rejections wouldn’t be any more of a problem than they are now.
Elections cost money.
We should be willing to put our money where our mouths are.
Why not just get on and do it?
If you can think of a really overwhelming counter argument then let’s hear it.
* Alan Levy is a Lib Dem member/activist and an ex-councillor (with ambitions to drop the “ex” bit at some point) living in Cambridge.