Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Red Benches, Indeed

The Coalition is preparing to replace the House of Lords with a new second chamber elected by means of regional party lists. Nick Clegg and all the other Lib Dem Ministers who are going to lose their Commons seats would be packed off to it, and the thing itself would be set up by the use of the Parliament Act, any deployment of which other than to pass Lloyd George's People's Budget is essentially an abuse. Do we have a bicameral Parliament, or not?

As Their Lordships demonstrate their worth by continuing to obstruct the attempt to reduce accountability by reducing the number of MPs but not of Ministers, remember that Labour, the Crossbenchers and assorted others outnumber the two Coalition parties. Whereas an elected second chamber would have a Conservative-Lib Dem majority on a permanent basis. A Labour skew in the current electoral arrangement is, so to speak, an urban myth (the real problem is that the poor no longer vote, since they no longer have anyone to vote for), and in any case a redrawing now, four years before the next Election, would make absolutely no difference, since the same trend towards deurbanisation will continue in the intervening period.

Thank goodness that there is still some part of our parliamentary system from which it remains possible to speak from outside the nasty but inevitable union between, on the one hand, what has always been the anti-parliamentary New Left and, on the other hand, the sociologically indistinguishable New Right's arrival at hatred of Parliament as the natural conclusion of its hatred of the State. Yes, Daily Telegraph, that does mean your expenses "scandal" and your entrapment of Ministers by pretending to be constituents when you were not. From that union, together with the SDP's misguided Alliance with the Liberals around their practically Bennite constitutional agenda, derives the Political Class's desire to abolish the House of Lords.

For those who keep such scores, the House of Lords has a higher proportion of women, a higher proportion of people from ethnic minorities, a broader range of ethnic minorities, and far more people from working-class backgrounds generally and the trade union movement in particular, than can be found down the corridor. More significantly, and despite the very hard efforts of successive governments, it also retains a broader range of political opinion, more reflective of the country at large. But that is under grave threat, both from the party machines and from the way of all flesh.

Perhaps the future composition of the House might be secured, at least in part, by providing for each current Life Peer, at least who attends very or fairly regularly, to name an heir, by no means necessarily or even ordinarily a relative, but rather a political and a wider intellectual soul mate, who would become a Peer upon his or her nominator's death, and who would thus acquire the same right of nomination? I am not necessarily advocating this. But can anyone think of anything better?

1 comment:

  1. Whose heir could you be? I can hink of several possibilities, and that is basically your point.