We should move the Lords – to the dustbin of history

Moving the House of Lords up north won’t make it more democratic.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Staff writer

Share
Topics Politics UK

The government is planning to move the House of Lords out of London to ‘reconnect’ politics with voters outside of the capital. According to The Sunday Times, York is the frontrunner to host the upper chamber, with Birmingham also in the running.

It is hard to see the move as anything other than superficial. Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly perhaps gave the game away when telling Sky News that ‘fundamentally what this is about is demonstrating to the people that we are going to do things differently’. Similarly, a spokesperson for No10 told the The Sunday Times that moving the Lords ‘will serve as a strong signal that we are serious about refocusing attention and investment away from London’.

While it is true that politics has become too London-centric, the problem with a ‘Lords of the North’ is that it would still be the Lords. The Lords is totally undemocratic – peers are appointed rather than elected. Peers are also appointed for life and are nigh-on impossible to get rid of, making them immune not only to democratic pressure but also to some of the most basic standards of decency in public life: convicted perjurer Lord Archer and expenses cheat Lord Bassam, to give just two examples, remain in post.

Because lords are regularly appointed to the benches but tend to be only forced out by natural causes, there are currently a whopping 795 peers, making it the second-largest legislative chamber in the world after China’s People’s Congress.

The House of Lords has become something akin to a retirement home for has-been politicians. Recent nominations to the upper chamber are a case in point. The Conservatives want to elevate failed London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who lost his Commons seat in the last election for the second time in three years.

Meanwhile, Labour has reportedly nominated former speaker John Bercow, former deputy Labour leader Tom Watson and Karie Murphy, Jeremy Corbyn’s former chief of staff. Bercow is widely hated for his anti-Brexit constitutional quackery. Watson jumped ship before the election (his West Bromwich East seat fell to the Tories). The self-appointed paedo-finder general used his ‘parliamentary privilege’ to falsely accuse people of child abuse. Murphy is currently under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism. These are all people who the public desperately want to see the back of, but, instead, they will be allowed to lord it over us for the rest of their lives.

Moving the Lords to York or to Birmingham solves none of its inherent problems. The move mistakes geographical closeness for political representation. The fact that Westminster is just a tube journey away from Barking and Dagenham, London’s most deprived borough, does not mean its residents are any more ‘connected’ to the Lords’ activities than people living in Moss Side, Manchester.

The chasm between the Lords and the public became abundantly clear during the past few years of Brexit deadlock. According to figures collated by ITV’s Peston On Sunday, over 600 peers backed Remain, and around 165 backed Leave. Their unelected position in the Lords allowed them to amend and frustrate Brexit-related legislation to their own ends. They were free to disregard the result of the referendum entirely because there was no democratic pressure holding their feet to the fire.

Thomas Paine once described the House of Lords as a ‘remnant of aristocratic tyranny’, and this still holds true, even if appointed cronies, rather than pure-bred aristocrats, now make up most of the red benches. Born-to-rule arrogance has been replaced with technocratic arrogance – many peers cite having the correct ‘expertise’ or ‘experience’ as justification for their unaccountable position in our lawmaking process.

The House of Lords does not need to be reformed or relocated, it needs to be scrapped. The only place it should be moved to is the dustbin of history.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Marvin Jones

23rd January 2020 at 11:35 am

This comment is from someone who doesn’t know or understand why we need the HOLs or what they are for, and why 200 of them could not accomplish what 842 are. Now for the basic, logical,
average person, just imagine how much this asinine system costs us per year, and add the savings to reducing the foreign aid waste to £1billion a year, kept in an account and used when required for sudden disasters. Find a way to reduce illegal migration and reduce yearly migration to 100,000 instead of 300,000. Unless one is ignorant enough to believe that they are all beneficial
to the country’s finances. Every hospital must have a dedicated office to stop NHS tourism, like almost all EU countries do, and make the department pay for their own existence. All visitors MUST have health insurance, and unemployed foreigners must return home and not get ANY benefits or JSA. Anyone, except Diane, please tot all this up and see the benefits we would have.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

21st January 2020 at 5:03 pm

It ought to be abolished entirely and replaced with an elected senate, as a prelude to the abolition of the monarchy and creation of a democratic, written republican constitution and bill of rights – based, naturally, on the proper separation of powers defined by Montesquieu.

Finbarr Bruggy

21st January 2020 at 3:49 pm

795 unelected members compared with 650 elected – madness. Reduce the lords to 100 or 200 elected members. In December’s election I could not bring myself to vote the local Labour candidate, but had I been able to vote for a candidate for the upper house, I would certainly have gone for a non-Corbynite Labour grandee.

brent mckeon

21st January 2020 at 6:29 am

Move it north, make its members mostly there by vote and the appointed ones (max 10%) get max 10 years.

jan mozelewski

21st January 2020 at 11:14 am

You didn’t specify how FAR ….maybe you had the extremity of the Unst in mind? That wouldn’t have to be a big building. Perhaps a sheep shed would do? And, of course, most of the dodderers and freeloaders would never be able to sign in and claim expenses. So cheap too. Besides, for most of the year it would be difficult to get back because of transport difficulties….and communications problems would mean no-one ever heard them either….

Michael Lynch

21st January 2020 at 1:16 am

After today’s vote in the Lords to amend the Brexit Bill, changes that will be dismissed in the HOC by the Tories, you have to ask what is the point of them? They have acted disgracefully over the last three and a half years, tyrannical even, and deserve nothing but the ire of the British people. The fact that politicians can choose to elect the likes of Swinson, a democracy denying despot, to the Lords renders it incompatible and out of step with modern Britain. Cut it down to size, elect by public vote, or just abolish it.

jan mozelewski

21st January 2020 at 11:22 am

It is ludicrous that the Lords…already swollen with almost 800 totally un-elected members …should even be contemplating putting forward any more. It is out of control and is incompatible with democracy in exactly the same was as the EU is. It is expensive and a gravy train and I think the majority of people in the country want it gone….or, at the very least, subject to some democratic constraint.
If it isn’t outright abolished…my personal preference…it should be drastically slimmed down with no more than 200 seats available. It needs a massive cull.
The very fact that Corbyn is putting forward people for an unelected chamber should be final proof that the old charlatan is just a sulky spiteful old spoiler with no principles whatsoever, let alone socialist ones.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.