THE UNACCOUNTABLE IN PURSUIT OF THE INDEFENSIBLE
Whilst the defeat the Government suffered last night on working families tax credits was welcome it should not be seen as justification for the House of Lords itself. I watched some of the debate intermittently throughout the day and apart from the issue itself and the fact the event was televised the scene could easily have been mistaken for the 17th century. The 600 unelected and unaccountable Lords, Ladies, Earls, Viscounts, Baronesses, Dames and Bishops looked utterly ridiculous in their ermine robes and ancient setting. Their pomposity and self-importance merely reiterated just how unrepresentative they all are of the British people as a whole.
These hand picked lackeys collected up from across the UK establishment to be rewarded are not typical of the population as whole. Neither is the House of Commons of course but The Lords is made up entirely of failed and former politicians, retired academics, retired professionals from medicine, the law, the arts, science, administration, the police and armed services, captains of industry, trade unions barons and the civil service. And last but by no means least ludicrous are the church lackeys; the bishops, cardinals, rabbi’s, etc.
There they all sit on their £300/day plus first class expenses. These are the last people I would want considering the precarious circumstances of the poorest in our society.
For the debate again put into sharp focus what is wrong with ‘British democracy’. On the one hand an elected Tory Government was attacking the income of the poor without a mandate to do so – Cameron repeatedly said throughout the election he ‘had no plans to cut tax credits’ - and on the other hand Lords and Ladies of privilege who, for all their formal education, revealed they simply haven’t a clue about what life is really like for working people in 21st century Britain being paid ‘peanuts’ on zero hour contracts.
The House of Lords is of course an affront to democracy and should be abolished forthwith. Labour, the Lib-Dems, and the Tories want to keep it to use as patronage and to reward their own 'lickspittles'. They insist unconvincingly that it plays a learned role in scrutinising Government legislation made up as it is with ‘brilliant minds' and 'experts from across various fields’. This is of course nonsense. There is no obligation on Lords to even turn up for debates and many peers were born into the seat handed to them by their fathers and grandfathers etc.
Why the Greens and Plaid Cywru take seats in the Lords I have no idea. It reflects poorly on them both and rather undermines their democratic credentials. The SNP does not take up seats in the Lords.
What is to be done?
The answer is to scrap the House of Lords altogether or replace it with an elected second chamber.
Advocates of a second chamber suggest it plays a scrutinising role on legislation considered by the main chamber but they accept it should be of secondary importance to the main elected body both in its political importance and its legislative reach.
The US for example has a bicameral system - two elected chambers - The House of Representative and The Senate. The former has members directly elected with the number of seats awarded to each state based on population size. The latter is also directly elected but Senators are limited to 2 per state regardless of population size. Whilst the issues discussed in each chamber differ key Bills need the backing of both legislatures.