LibLink: James Graham – Liberal – but not so democratic in the Lords

Over on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free site, Lib Dem blogger James Graham has a piece arguing that if the party wants to demonstrate its commitment to reforming the House of Lords, we should start by stopping the appointment of additional peers.

Here’s a sample:

Nowhere are the flaws of political appointment more apparent than in the Liberal Democrat party in the House of Lords. Not only are Lib Dem peers handpicked by their leader (in theory, the leader is restricted in his choice; the reality is somewhat different), they are self-selecting. You are either the sort of person who is eminently comfortable with being given a seat for life in the legislature without any democratic mandate, or you find it abhorrent.

The latter tend not to invest the time and energy required in finding favour from the leader of the day while the former can be all too readily identified by anyone who has ever sat on an internal party committee.

With a system of appointment, engineering a parliamentary party that is gender-balanced and broadly reflects the ethnic and socio-economic mix of the country as a whole ought to be simplicity itself. The fact that the majority of peers continue to be middle-class men of a certain age and background should tell you all you need to know about the nature of patronage.

By their very nature then, peers predominantly either come from the establishment or seek to be a part of it. This is usually good news for a party leader seeking loyalty on the red benches but now we see that this loyalty comes with strings attached. For too long we have gone along with the system while blithely assuming that our own peers will vote for their own abolition when the time comes. Now we learn that is unlikely to be the case.

You can read James’s whole piece over on Comment Is Free here.

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3 Comments

  • paul barker 2nd Jun '11 - 5:32pm

    From now on all prospective LD Peers should be asked for a written commitment to an 80% Elected HoL & the rate of putting new Peers in should be increased. There may be a case for withdrawing an LD designation from those of our Peers who dont support the Reforms. Lets start picking Peers who loathe The HoL as it is & will fight for Reform.

  • Denis Cooper 2nd Jun '11 - 7:36pm

    How much does it matter?

    There’s nothing in the 1911 Parliament Act:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/1-2/13/contents

    to prevent it being used to change the composition of the Lords as the Commons sees fit, and if the present incumbents don’t like it they can lump it.

    The judgement in the case of Jackson and others (Appellants) v. Her Majesty’s Attorney General (Respondent) is here:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldjudgmt/jd051013/jack-1.htm

    and Lord Bingham traced the events leading up to the 1911 Parliament Act, and noted here:

    “20 … Secondly, during the passage of the Bill through Parliament a number of attempts were made … to insert words after “other than a Money Bill” …

    … “or a Bill which contains any provision which affects the Constitution of the House of Lords” (rejected 24 April 1911, col 1516) …

    …. None of these amendments was acceptable to the majority in the Commons.”

    So is it not the case that when the Lords finally agreed to that Bill in 1911, they permanently surrendered their right to veto any future changes to the composition of their chamber which may be required by the Commons?

  • “From now on all prospective LD Peers should be asked for a written commitment to an 80% Elected HoL & the rate of putting new Peers in should be increased.”

    From now on there shouldn’t bloody well be any more prospective LD Peers!

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