Monday, 17 May 2010

More Lords, just what this country needs

The Times reports:
David Cameron and Nick Clegg will create more than 100 peers to ensure that controversial legislation gets through Parliament.

The coalition government has agreed to reshape the House of Lords, which is currently dominated by Labour, to be “reflective of the vote” at the general election. That saw the Tories and the Liberal Democrats together get 59 per cent.

None of Labour’s 211 existing peers can be removed, so the coalition must appoint dozens of its own to rebalance the upper chamber. Lib Dem estimates suggest that the number of Tory peers would need to rise from 186 to 263 and Lib Dem peers from 72 to 167.

The first wave is expected soon, to enable additional ministerial appointments to take place, with further announcements within the parliament.
Alan Travis at The Guardian has picked up on this too. The most interesting bit of his coverage is the historical note:
David Lloyd George may have threatened to create 250 new peers after the Lords blocked the 1909 People's budget but it did not prove necessary in the end. Mind you, as a result of Lloyd George's reforms, the Cameron-Clegg coalition cannot now find their most controversial measures – the tax rises and budget cuts needed to deal with the deficit – challenged by the House of Lords.
No doubt we'll see plenty of informed comment on this issue over the coming days, but here are my initial thoughts:
  • this move is even more cynical than the proposed 55% rule;
  • however, Labour are in no position to criticise the new coalition for playing fast and loose with the constitution;
  • a truly proportionally elected upper house might be a good idea;
  • an upper house that reflects the portion of the votes earned by the major parties at the last general election is something quite different;
  • it is hard to conceive of a worse system for assembling an upper house than allowing politicians to appoint their cronies;
  • a system that allows them to appoint as many cronies as they like seems especially daft;
  • even hereditary peers are preferable to sycophants on sinecure;
  • representatives of the church should have no place in the House of Lords;
  • thanks to The Parliament Act, our upper house has been impotent for a long time now, capable only of slowing legislation down;
  • a better system might be to force a referendum on any issue where the Parliament Act would otherwise be invoked;
  • such a reform might make it difficult to reshape our country on libertarian lines;
  • we already have over 700 peers, which seems like far too many;
  • on the other hand, I expect their total salaries and expenses represent a negligible portion of national expenditure;
  • considering the supremacy of the House of Commons, and the inability of a government to bind its successor, it is not at all clear to me why "none of Labour’s 211 existing peers can be removed";
  • my opinions on this issue are woefully uninformed;
  • so will be the opinions expressed in the mainstream media, and they will have an agenda;
  • "more than 100" is an interesting way of saying 172 [ (263-186)+(167-72) ];
  • any feature of our political system can be changed by the people if they get angry enough (just ask the French);
  • revolution in my lifetime looks increasingly likely

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