Writing for ConHome, Lord Michael Dobbs argues against reform of the House of Lords because elected peers would behave differently from unelected peers:
I would demand more influence, a stronger voice, and that new power could come from only one place – the House of Commons.
There’s two flaws with that argument. The first, the most obvious, is the question of why, if such a transfer of power happens, should we fear it? Taking power away from elected politicians and giving it to the unelected is certainly often to be feared (though not always – judges and juries, not ministers, should rule in court cases, to take the obvious example). But taking power from one set of elected politicians and giving it to other elected politicians? There is no inherent reason to fear that. Indeed a good part of the time many in the Conservatives talk, quite rightly, about taking power away from Whitehall and giving it to local councils. That’d be taking powers away from MPs and giving them to councillors. And quite right too.
But the second flaw is the one that should appeal to Euro-sceptics (and don’t worry, it can appeal to pro-Europeans too). It is that the real shift of power with an elected House of Lords would be a shift of power towards Parliament and away from the government. A stronger, more democratic Parliament will be better placed to hold the government to account and to check its mistakes.
That would include one of the things which Euro-sceptics love to hate – the government implementing directives agreed at the European level with the British agreement and implementation frequently getting only limited scrutiny in Parliament. A reformed Lords, invigorated by the mandate of democracy, would be better placed to push for better scrutiny.
A more assertive Upper House courtesy of democratic mandate is not something to be feared. It is something to be welcomed.