Lord Rennard writes… Lord Blackadder, Baldrick, by-elections and reform of the Lords

The House of Lords debated (again) this week the second reading of David Steel’s Bill to make some very modest and minor reforms to the House of Lords.

I compared the process of by-elections to elect hereditary peers to the campaign run by Lord Blackadder to elect Baldrick in the rotten borough of Dunny on the Wold. David Steel’s Bill would end these by-elections and allow peers to retire voluntarily. A much more fundamental draft Bill for Lords reform is expected early next year.

But this debate showed again how hard it will be to achieve fundamental reform of the House of Lords.

The Hansard for my contribution and the rest of the debate is available online here. Alternatively, my contribution to the  debate on is 1 hr 50 mins in from the start on the Parliament website.

Lord Rennard is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Steel’s Bill is akin to re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic – the House of Lords is fundamentally anti-democratic and wrong, it should be entirely abolished. I deeply resent the laws of this land – laws that directly or indirectly affect my life – being made by Establishment-lackeys and reactionary buffoons who have no democratic mandate and, moreover, I have no means of influencing how they vote. It makes me cringe when I watch the proceedings of the Lords and hear them laughing at their silly anecdotes and slapping each other on the back saying “how wonderful the Lords is and how well it works”. They are wrong on all counts.

    The House of Lords does NOT work – it is an inherently corrupt anachronism that has no place in a democracy. It should be entirely abolished. This would strengthen our democracy, save a considerable sum of money (something that the Coalition should welcome) and improve decision-making, if the abolition was accompanied by suitable reforms to the Commons (such as introducing proportional representation and strengthening the committee system to improve the scrutiny of legislation).

    So sorry Lord Rennard, but the House of Lords is no better than “the rotten borough of Dunny on the Wold”, both stink. (And on a point of fact, was Blackadder a Lord? I don’t think so – surely he was Prince George’s servant!)

  • On many occasions, I have dropped to my knees and thanked the Lords for bringing common sense to daft legislation. That said, I cannot justify an unelected body determining the laws under which people must live. I believe there is a strong case for the splitting the House of Lords into two functions: a monitory body elected under a form of PR and an unelected house of ‘experts’ and ‘sages.’ I don’t think this is particularly radical and would be quite easy to design: I could do it myself in 3-4 weeks. Neither do I think it would be difficult to implement. I’m sure it could be ready by 2015 and I believe the public would welcome, some might say are crying out for, a pragmatic, yet democratic, improvement in the way we do politics.

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Dec '10 - 7:43am

    This one’s frustrating. Conceptually the Lords is all wrong – unelected, unaccountable, and full of time-wasting nonsense and grift.

    But in practice they’re the only thing that has stopped a series of governments from doing a great many profoundly stupid and wrong things.

    I’m very annoyed that we have to rely on such a body to do this.

  • Emsworthian 6th Dec '10 - 8:48pm

    Where else but in Britain could 50 new legislators be created with the stroke of a pen?

  • Malcolm Todd 6th Dec '10 - 11:45pm

    “Where else but in Britain could 50 new legislators be created with the stroke of a pen?”

    Well, Canada for a start.

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