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How to Kill Lords Reform

 


Buried on the BBC Politics page this week is that Lords reform is back, like a New Labor Terminator. maybe a bit unfair. So unfair, in fact, that he’s considering scrapping it and replacing it with something new and fun. Something to help safeguard decentralization, According to The Observer.

To add to the joy, Gordon Brown, who apparently believes the constitutional reform plans will help him get over throwing printers at people, leads the merry band planning this.

So, before I explain why this is a terrible idea, and the exact wrong way to improve UK PLC governance, what exactly is our Government in Waiting on? Given Sir Keirs’ political background, perhaps an institution with the sole aim of bashing Boris Johnson until he emigrates, or perhaps an institution that guillotines Labor MPs who join picket lines.

Apparently Sir Keir would like the chamber to be elected by the voters, rather than the current mix of those chosen by former prime ministers, 92 hereditary peers, a few bishops and a rabbi. It seems to be based on a curious theory that it will create greater trust and probity in politics, I guess with the Democratic Commons as a model. Given that Yougov places public confidence in the Lords at just 19%, the lower house’s stratospheric 27% approval rating does indeed seem like a model to emulate.

He would also like it to preserve devolution by being truly representative of nations and regions, presumably counterbalancing the considerable over-representation of Wales and Scotland in the Commons. Preserving devolution is clearly important to Keir, perhaps because he hasn’t read the 2016 Scottish Act which already calls for permanent settlement and abolition subject to referendums. But hey, it would be a bit rude to ask our future Prime Minister to grasp the basic constitutional facts, I suppose.

So why is this a bad idea? Well, on the one hand, he would almost certainly be elected by proportional representation. Despite what self-proclaimed political gurus and HG Wells’ letters to the Times might tell you, it’s actually a terrible idea. The experience of Europe, governed by indecisive and endless coalitions, puts to shame the attempts to clog the Parliament of Westminster.

Given how excruciatingly long the 54-day Tory leadership race lasted this summer, imagine how we would have reacted to a Belgian-style government formation. In 2010-2011, it really took 10 times longer, meaning the poor country had an interim government for almost 18 months; in 2019-20, they saved 16 still questionable months.

Now, I know the Lords isn’t really where the UK government is formed, so maybe depressing the formation of a coalition won’t be as problematic in a fairly weak chamber. But that opens a whole different Pandora’s box.

As soon as voters realize that they can vote proportionally for something that is essentially inconsequential, or at least appears to be so, they invariably do two things. First, they don’t show up at the polls: which is why police and crime commissioner elections have pathetic turnouts, peaking at one-third of eligible voters in 2021.

Second, they vote for idiots in protest. Look at the elections to the European Parliament. The two main parties, the only ones with any experience or interest in governing constructively in Europe or at home, have never won even nearly half the vote since 1999.

Say what you will about it proving the unpopularity of Labor and the Tories, I don’t think anyone wants Nigel Farage to walk into the Lords with 150 seats and set out to further bankrupt the government.

Thus, proportional representation is a scam that only leads to incompetence and misery. But what about the current problem of legitimacy of the Lords? Certainly, this must be resolved. But I would suggest a very different system from the nonsense proposed by Keir and Gordon.

The crux of the current problem lies in the ever-growing ranks of life’s peers, who wallow in the charming Russian media magnate and (theoretically independent) peer Lord Lebedev, and the Blair-appointed Lord Sewel, who has had to resigned in 2015 for snorting cocaine into a woman’s chest on camera.

But elections would not improve that. Consider that the democratically elected House of Commons found cocaine in 11 of its 12 bathrooms, contained for more than three decades MP Keith Vaz who spent his free time sucking the drugs from male prostitutes, and let a Chinese spy donating 420,000 to Labor MP Barry Gardiner. You could argue that letting voters choose its members hasn’t exactly solved the problem of drugs and foreign actors.

My solution then would be to get rid of the choice entirely. Not only avoiding voters, but also ensuring that the deeply flawed people they choose as MPs get no influence either, in other words, no appointment.

Instead, dig up old hereditary peers. Better to be run by old people with cut vowels and who hate inheritance taxes, than by Russian donors who have never paid taxes in their life and cocaine-addicted academics. August families probably wouldn’t even show up, which would be great for saving on catering and robe cleaning services.

Additionally, add additional Anglican Bishops to the Lords Spiritual. Their squishy liberal goodness should easily make up for the lack of hereditary Labor peers, keeping things nice and fair.

And finally, bring back the Lords of the Law. Constitutional nitpicking aside, returning Supreme Court justices to their old chambers would make room for the old Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court to return much needed given the backlog of 61,000 business.

Much better than Keir’s attempt to expand democracy, or worse, the impending resignation of Boris Johnson.

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