Norman Lamont is an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed

Yesterday Conservative peer Norman Lamont was the latest in a sequence of Tory peers to take to the pages of ConservativeHome to argue against their own party’s policy and opposed elections to the House of Lords.

However, he is also an excellent example of why the Lords should be reformed, for he is just the sort of MP I had mind when writing a piece for Left Foot Forward last year:

The voters have cast their verdict and an MP is out of office. What should happen to them next? Most people’s answers to that are somewhere on the spectrum from the polite (let them tidy up their affairs and see their staff properly treated as their contracts end) through to answers best not to be repeated before the watershed.

But our political system has a remarkable answer. For a lucky group, the answer to being voted out of parliament is to say to them “now you’ve been voted out, you can have a seat in parliament for life instead”.

The way ex-MPs get recycled back into parliament courtesy of a seat in the House of Lords is often reported, but the democratic offensiveness of it is rarely commented on. Voted out? Have a seat for life.

I don’t begrudge the defeated politicians who take up the offer because, after all, if they say “no” then their own party usually cannot transfer the offer to another person. Moreover, some rescued defeated MPs of all parties have turned out to be great members of the Lords.

But it’s right up there with the duck houses in showing a political class out of touch with basic common-sense to think it is acceptable to stick with a system where defeat doesn’t mean defeat but means a seat for life instead.

Norman Lamont was voted out of by the public in 1997 and how did the political system respond? It ended up giving him a seat in Parliament for life instead.

It is not only that the Lords is not democratic, that way of behaving undermines the democracy of the Commons too.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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10 Comments

  • Keith Browning 1st Mar '12 - 12:47pm

    We have changed from a system where the descendents of the great and the good of medieval England have been replaced by an ad hoc system, so that the defeated favourite chum of a defeated Prime Minister is there instead.

    madness..!

    Obviously an elected system has got to be better, but given the option of a peer chosen by Henry VIII or Elizabeth I, or one chosen by Tony Blair, Brown or Cameron et al, I think my preference would be to go with the descendent chosen by the man with the six wives. At least there can be no accusations of ‘cash for honours’ or nepotism.

    The sooner we have a proper voting system the better.

  • Couldn’t agree more. I still feel the current proposals are wrong (I would want a far shorter term for example), but I would take this over the current system any day…

  • Richard Church 1st Mar '12 - 3:04pm

    Liberal Eye- Where have you been? Have you not seen Lib Dem comment on everything economical from restructuring the tax system to restructuring the banks? And from investment in growth to tackling youth unemployment?

    The old argument that now is not the right time for constitutional reform because there are more pressing issues is the reason why our constitution has progressed so little for so long, and we are left with anachronisms like the House of Lords.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Mar '12 - 8:23pm

    I toally agree with Liberal Eye. I really can’t see the point of what is being proposed for the House of Lords. If people object to having an unelected HoL, why not just abolish it altogether? What exactly would be the benefit of having our elected representatives split over two houses, rather than one? A second elected chamber stuffed with party politicians could only ever be either (a) a completely useless rubber-stamping body, or (b) a source of chaos and deadlock such as happens in the US from time to time. Either way, it just seems a big waste of time and money.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Mar '12 - 8:26pm

    Forgot to add: Pretty much every argument against the present HoL I read on LDV could be applied just as well (if not more so) to the monarchy. So why aren’t Lib Dems campaigning to replace the Queen with an elected head of state?

  • Yes. And he is different from Jenny Tonge how?

  • ..and when will they get round to realising that anyone who has had a prison sentence is self-evidently unsuitable to serve in parliament.. ?? Disqualify, Disrobe and Dismiss the likes of ‘Lord’ Archer.!!

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