...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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March 11, 2007 || 9:53 pm
Lords reform

I am, perhaps predictably, not in favour of the current proposals for reform of the House of Lords. I enjoyed the Lords before they threw out most of the hereditary peers, and as far as I am concerned, the more idiosyncratic and diverse voices that are heard in the process of government and lawmaking, the better.

It is interesting to me how sections of the left-wing press, whom one might have expected to rail against an appointed House and campaign for an elected one, have in fact run articles saying the opposite. I enjoyed this piece by a crossbench peer in the Guardian, as much as reading Tony Benn's inevitable plea. This evening I particularly appreciated Bruce Ackerman's piece in the LRB that cogently sets out the merits of the many forms of second house that exist and could exist.

I also have him to thank for articulating much of the detail of the current bill. I'm sure I'm not alone in not realising that the elected 'Lords' would, in current proposals, be elected for a single fifteen-year term and then not be allowed to stand for a second term? I'm also not at all convinced by the proposal for a partially open list system, which seems to be complicated and also overly political. I see the role of the Lords being to garner a broad selection of voices, not a second party-dominated house, which is the result of the semi-closed list system. Either these reforms should go the whole way, with shorter terms, re-election and open lists, or leave it as it is, perhaps getting rid of of all hereditary peers for the sake of consistency, and with a strengthened, statutory Appointments Commission to rid the system of the cash-for-honours taint.

But of course, these options would leave the Commons vulnerable, when the clear aim is to hobble the Lords so much that it become a mere rubber-stamp. Ironically, the damage done to this Labour administration through the cash-for-honours affair is boosting support for what may be its most significant legacy.



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