Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
There's no money in it.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Vote for your Peers

Annual elections for Lordage
  [vote for,

On Channel 4 last night we, in the UK, were subjected to a torrid stream of hereditary peers of the realm being chucked out of the House of Lords, a privilege granted to them by virtue of their ancestors being in the right place at the right time. It was quite sad really, but got me thinking about the reform of our dearly beloved Upper House.

The problem, it appears to me, is to provide a House that does not simply reflect the political composition of the Lower House (or reflect the opposite political composition) but give opportunity for people of merit to discuss and rationalise legislation. Because the House of Lords is currently not elected, the Commons can always pull the "democratic mandate", as they are currently doing with the adoption law.

However, the alternative appears to be that of patronage (took me a while to remember the word!), which means that as long as you know the guy currently in power, you have a good chance of getting put in the place. This seems as arbitrary as having your great-grandfather in the right place at the right time.

My proposal is that we do indeed have an elected House of Lords, but an election with a difference. Basically anybody can stand as long as they find a few hundred people to put them on the ballot paper. There are annual elections, and people can vote for as many or as few people as they want. Each political party can try to put as many people as they want in, or can be philanthropic and try to put eminent persons (such as scientists, moral leaders, teachers and dustmen) as well.

Each ballot paper is counted, and each vote is counted. In order to be elected to the House of Lords, the candidate must have more votes than one-third of the ballot papers. If no-one reaches that threshold, no-one is elected. If 347 people reach that threshold, then all 347 are elected. Once you're in, you're in and can't be kicked out. Once you die, you're dead and can take no further part. Your right to sit dies with you.

Because when you're in you're in, you're not fighting to be re-elected all the time, so you are not beholden to any political party or faction.

I'm sure FarmerJohn can make this more interesting, but my comedic skills are waning in the onslaught of preparation for building our West Wing.

PeterSilly, Nov 04 2002


       The problem with an elected second chamber is that you then have to pay them and give them real power, otherwise all the eminent people you think should be in the second chamber won't want to be there. If you do manage to persuade these people to serve in an elected second chamber, before you know it they'll all have turned into party-political career politicians and it'll be just like the House of Commons.
hippo, Nov 04 2002

       Your argument is flawed: even before the changes to the House of Lords, the political make-up of the voting peers closely matched the population at large. Indeed, before the changes, the House of Lords was made up of a randomly selected group of people (nothing more random than birth, after all).   

       Insulating the upper parliamentary body from populism is no bad thing, and it is a shame the House of Commons has messed with the system. Democracy always veers towards mob rule (witness ancient Rome); concrete checks need to be in place to deter this tendency.
DrCurry, Nov 04 2002

       [Crumbs] - you're right. I didn't mean to infer that ALL of the hereditary peers had gone, yet.   

       [hippo] - some of the peers said that the process you describe was already happening in the Lords anyway. Some of the 92 that remain are there on the basis that they can afford to be career-Lords.   

       [DrC] - I'm afraid I disagree. The vast majority of the hereditary peers were (and still are) Conservative - the numbers speak for themselves, 42 Con, 6 Lib Dem, 4 Labour, 13 Cross-Bencher. There was a massive bias in the Lords, which is part of the reason that socialists always want to reform it. However, you not only need an insulated body of legislators who can resist the power of government, but an in-touch body of legislators who accurately reflect the make-up of society. These two objectives appear to be mutually incompatible.
PeterSilly, Nov 04 2002

       Same way, calum. They can stand for election and if they get enough crosses in boxes, they're in. That way we're not exclusively Anglican, and the wee-frees (for example) get a voice.   

       Law Lords - not sure that the Lords is the right place for the final court of the land.
PeterSilly, Nov 04 2002

       Populism/ democracy is the problem. How about we put democracy aside for a moment? Everyone can apply to be a peer - on completion of an exam (literacy, basic constitutional understanding) and screening for criminal record - then everyone is put into a pot and names are pulled out at random. Five year stint, decent pay (median+) - cannot reapply if you have done it once. 500 Lords, so likely to cover off most faiths/ interest groups. Power is minimal (as present) so unlikely to cause too great a threat to democracy.
whimsickle, Nov 04 2002

       PSilly, leave our Lords alone! (Apologies to Pink Floyd)
Jinbish, Nov 04 2002

       [PeterSilly]: //However, you not only need an insulated body of legislators who can resist the power of government, but an in-touch body of legislators who accurately reflect the make-up of society. These two objectives appear to be mutually incompatible.//   

       That's the REASON for HAVING a bi-cameral legislature! The two objectives you describe are mutually incompatible within a legislative body, thus the need to have two bodies so each objective can be met in one.   

       Unfortunately, the U.S. government largely did away with the bicameral legislature in 1913, turning the Senate into an even more populist version of the House of Representatives. The growth of the government since then is almost certainly in large part a result of this.
supercat, Nov 04 2002

       If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any legislative privileges. How can you have your legislative privileges if you don't eat your meat?
krelnik, Nov 04 2002

       [supercat] - exactly, which is why I've subtly amended the idea to include the new penultimate paragraph.   

       And [waugs] - abolition accomplishes nothing. We'd then get whole bunches of populist, poorly-thought-through legislation which would take even longer to unravel in the courts.
PeterSilly, Nov 05 2002

       I'd prefer to get rid of politicians altogether but, as an amusing alternative, I think that the 'Lords' should be populated by all the candidates that came second in the General Election.
DrBob, Nov 07 2002

       ...or the runners-up from the Eurovision Song Contest...or
po, Nov 07 2002

       [Crumbs] - that means we would really pay all our politicians to do nothing!   

       Don't like the idea of second-placers populating the Lords either, [DrB]. All that would happen is that parties would then put two candidates up per seat rather than one. [po] may be on to something though - anybody who appears on Eurovision needs some kind of recognition for their sheer gall.
PeterSilly, Nov 07 2002

       Putting two candidates up would be a good way of ensuring that they came second and third instead of first. Voters still only get one vote, regardless of the number of people standing for election, so any party fielding extra candidates would be splitting their vote and thus ensuring their defeat. Possibly risking even the consolation of a seat in the upper House.
DrBob, Nov 08 2002

       House of Losers
whimsickle, Nov 08 2002

       Sorry to pop this up to the top, but Radio 4's Today programme appears to be attempting something like this over the Christmas period. I'm consulting my lawyers...
PeterSilly, Dec 20 2004


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle