Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is Lords' reform just a political boondoggle?

The Economist offers an op-ed on the reform of the UK's upper chamber

House repairs: Beneath high-flown talk of Lords reform lies a grubby power struggle
Lords reform sounds an abstruse subject to outsiders, on a par with the gilded and berobed flummery of the State Opening itself. Research by YouGov, a pollster, suggests it is a political priority for precisely no voters (though if prompted, most people prefer the sound of an elected upper house)…

Thanks to pressure from Liberal Democrats, for whom constitutional reform is a defining concern, legislation to reform the Lords should reach Parliament within weeks…

Opponents, including many Tory MPs and peers but also members of Labour and even a few Lib Dems, charge that an upper house with its own electoral mandate would threaten “the destruction of the House of Commons as we know it”, to quote one Conservative peer…

As it happens, there are questions of real principle to consider. If current proposals are followed, the Senate would be only tenuously accountable to voters, with members elected from giant constituencies for 15-year terms by a variant of proportional representation. Yet even such arms-length democracy would test the century-old convention that in tussles with the House of Commons…

So much for high principle. In private, peers, MPs and officials describe a debate steeped in self-interest and cant. Naturally lots of MPs want to keep an appointed House of Lords, growls a senior Lib Dem: it’s where they plan to retire, or flee after losing seats…

Of course Lib Dems want a proportionally elected Senate, counter Tory and Labour politicians: they think they would hold the balance of power there.

In short, the airy debate over Lords reform is really a brutal fight about power. Which is why a Senate will probably not happen…

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At 9:09 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

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At 9:10 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

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