This week the House of Lords attempted to block the bill that would allow Theresa May to trigger Article 50, and begin the process that will result in us leaving the European Union. Apparently, they didn’t get the memo about the referendum result. This has caused outrage among many Brexiteers, with many calling for reform of the upper chamber, or even it’s complete abolition. Whether these people actually believe in electoral reform as a matter of principle or are just taking this position because something they disagree with has happened, is unclear. Regardless of their motivation though, I’m pleased that as a country we’re finally having this long overdue debate.
Legislation is proposed by the House of Commons, but before any of it can become law in the UK it has to pass through The Lords, who can amend or even reject laws entirely. This means that unelected people have a huge amount of power. Whether you like or loathe our current government, at least they were chosen by voters last May, the same cannot be said of The Lords. And don’t even get me started on the 25 bishops, who make The UK the only country other than Iran to have direct religious representation as a part of our system. It is archaic, and completely undemocratic.
After the last election The Lib Dems saw an increase in their number of peers in the Lords, even though they went from 56 seats in parliaments down to a measly 8 at the last election. Many of these are ex-MPs like Menzies Campbell who have only just lost their seats. These people were resoundingly rejected by the electorate, but are apparently still worthy of a job in politics for life? This doesn’t seem at all fair to me. Then of course there’s also Shami Chakrabarti, who was given a peerage by Jeremy Corbyn after her inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party coincidently found no issues. Forget door knocking and attending hustings, it looks like your quickest way into British politics is to turn a blind eye to institutional racism!
In stark contrast to this, the smaller political parties are hugely underrepresented in The Lords. The Greens only have 1 peer and UKIP only 3, despite each of these parties getting over 1 million and over 4 million votes respectively. The electoral system we use for The Commons isn’t perfect but even in comparison to that, this is simply ridiculous.
On June the 23rd last year, the British people voted to “take back control” from unelected EU commissioners. If the goal is to give ordinary people more control over how their society is run, surely the next logical step is to abolish the lords as well?