Saturday, 13 June 2009


Ranting Stan forces my hand, and so I must get my own electoral reform fantasy in sharpish.

Democracy is extremely hard to define in a nutshell…

An elected second chamber will make us less democratic - not more.

The final thing is an effective check and balance on the elected government - which is where the second chamber comes in. It is, of course, impossible for there to be an effective check and balance on an elected government if that second chamber is elected too. People keep trying to tell me that they manage it in other countries - such as the USA - but this simply isn't true.

The Lords does sterling work - and did even better before Tony Blair’s partial-birth ‘reform’ - in part because its members weren't dependent on day-to-day popularity as Commons MPs are (and as they have to respond to), and other aspects of partisanship.

The hereditaries never feared for their seats (except during civil wars, of course) being there by right; nor did the Law Lords or the bishops who are there ex officio. There were and are party hacks, of course, and direct Prime Ministerial appointees, but with the cross-benchers and non-appointees, there are still a lot of people not under the partisan thumb.

May I make a suggestion, going right back to the origins of democracy itself: ancient Athens?

Keep the existing appointees, hereditaries and ex-officios as they have their own freedoms and small power bases in different ways, and there should remain a core party structure and Government representation in the Upper House, and this would continue to bring variety and experience and a core of organisation and careful research to the upper chamber... and then draw the rest by lot.

Draw - say - nine individuals from the electoral rolls of each Commons constituency and allow no exceptions or defer service only on health or military service grounds as per jury service. Plug them into the internet at home and oblige them to log onto Parliament's websites, and force them to log onto and vote on Lords debates. Allow a bare minimum of twenty hours' activity per week (which might include posting text or video at each or some of the debate's sites - you could have online debates leading up to the vote where chamber-based peers could debate with their online counterparts in the country.)

Then it's up to them how they’re swayed, what they think and how they vote, and in which debates, if any, they choose to be most highly involved. Their actual votes could be kept secret, and their identities if they so chose.

They would, by dint of randomness, be representative of the public at large and therefore be seen as legitimate, and they also need not be specialist professional parasites:

They wouldn't be under the party whip.

They wouldn't need to chase state or special interest funding to be elected.

They wouldn't need to make empty, untrue or harmful election promises.

They'd already be living outside the Westminster bubble and so less likely to be so narrow-minded as to miss the point every single time.

Lots of girls would get in despite the worst efforts of the party selection committees (a particular problem with the Tories) and they wouldn’t have to abandon home, family, and sanity to do their parliamentary duty.

The political parties would really, really have to work hard to attract their support.

They’d know that they’ll have to go back to the real world of crime, debts, mortgages and having to make a living very soon.

They could respond quickly to emergencies - thanks to their variety and independence (OMG! ‘Diversity’ for real!) - without having to wait for a party line to evolve or to be imposed, and amend or delay legislation accordingly.

You’d probably get social conservatives in despite the libtard hold on the parties because such people would still have to live right close to the communities that the elected politicians variously invent, discover and bribe, and either herd or are herded by.

Carol Vorderman might be chosen without having to be nice to David Cameron who is totally unworthy of her.

I’d keep the territorial nature of Commons elections (look, I’m a conservative, see?), and the party structure and the first-past-the post system, and the Commons’ monopolies on finance and originating bills, because all that works, but force them to really, really work hard to persuade an invigorated Lords to accept their legislation.

Give them terms outside the electoral cycle - say two or three years, so as not to necessarily go along with temporary or trivial electoral fads that might pack the Commons for five years (as 'Tory sleaze' and MPs expenses did and the deaths of Diana or Jade or specific acts of terrorism or treachery might have).

They’d not be a mob – but they would be swayable by media and prejudice, family and friends, but also safe from the oppression of public meetings or enraged constituents.

Pay them one-and-a-half or twice their last year's bottom line per annum to make it worth their while and to overcome the inconvenience of disrupting their lives, (doleys to get £120 per week plus rent and council tax paid, Richard Branson to get £120,000,000 or whatever, businessmen and teachers double their previous years’ scores of thousands.)

No expenses, ever.

Pensions to consist of one year’s Lords remuneration per year’s satisfactory service paid as lump sums into the investment of their choice and none to be drawn for ten years after service ends. This last is to prevent the tendency to approve legislation aimed at making a fast buck on the Stock Market; but rather to prejudice them in favour of long-term overall good economic policies, if they are capable of such a thing.

This would maintain the perspective that having different standards of livings in Parliament might bring – instead of the present everyone starts on £60K and works their way up herd mentality. (Do pigs herd? Flock? Shoal?)

Let the majority of the Lords worry about paying for the gas and the mortgage in the near future – but not too soon to be intimidated by their responsibilities.

You’d get your special-interest pleaders and influence-brokers for sure (but it would be legal and open to view because they’d have to declare their interests) voting per Big Business or the unions or churches or established or fringe parties or ‘community groups’ – but I think you’d likely get something representative of the nation as a whole with some measure of comfort and security, but not too much, by not providing them with a permanent and publicly-funded career with repeat electability and repeat corruptibility.

Think of all those multiple-term US Democratic Senators who’ve helped to usher in The One with all His faults, and our very own Happy Troughers from safe-seat Valleys smeg-holes or Home Counties mini-Reichs.

Repeat as necessary to keep the compost heap of the nation fresh and vigorous.

So what do you think, peeps?

Put the Peepul in charge of overseeing the pols without transforming the Peepul into a permanently rich and comfortable class of brand new bribable pols?

Might something like this keep Britain’s ancient constitution alive and kicking and yet curb our cowardly custodes?


Dave H said...

Pigs have a drove, herd, litter or (wild ones) sounder mentality.

(For bears it’s sleuth, they missed a trick in not calling it a shit in the woods.)

North Northwester said...

HI Dave H, and welcome.

A sleuth of bears - how the hell did detectives get the name?

This also gives a sloth of bears.

And this:

an anthology of prostitutes.

You've got me going now.

James Higham said...

An elected second chamber will make us less democratic - not more.

Precisely. Nice post.


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