Tuesday, 10 July 2012

To those who say the Lords ain't broke

One of the comments I've seen made quite often by people who oppose reform of the House of Lords is "if it ain't broke don't fix it". A predictably shallow and intellectually unsound argument but, despite that, I've decided to rant about it :)

So, if you've used that phrase to defend an undemocratic, unaccountable House of Lords then the following is addressed to you (warning contains *quickly checks* one swear word) :

It ain't broke. Are you serious? We have a  chamber stuffed full of failed politicians, appointed by the nepotism of their party leaders, who can get £300 a day, tax free, just for turning up and then going home again, who rebel against the party line much less than MPs and who can't be kicked out even if they commit murder - and you think that isn't broken?

70% of people want an elected house of lords. It's 100 years overdue and anyone who's arguing against it cannot claim to be anything other than an undemocratic defender of unelected, unaccountable privilege and nepotism all for the benefit of failed politicians.

Yes, there are a hell of a lot more important issues facing the country. So why don't opponents of lords reform simply shut the fuck up, vote for it, get it passed without it taking up any more parliamentary time than necessary instead of gumming up the works with filibuster attempts? If you're going to defend the lords then do so but don't pretend you're doing it on anything approaching a reasoned argument. The arguments against lords reform are so mutually contradictory they make the Chuckle Brothers look like veritable sages of wisdom. So if you're going to defend it at least have the honesty to admit that you're doing it in the face of all common sense and all democratic principles. And, at the end of the day, you're going to lose.

The same crap arguments being recycled today in defence of unaccountable privilege are the same arguments rolled out against abolishing the rotten boroughs, against extending the right to vote, against giving primacy to the commons and against giving women the right to vote. Every single meaningful reform in the history of this country, every single reform that paved the way to our modern society, has been obtained only though lengthy battle against die-hard opposition from hypocrites and two-faced dinosaurs. But those battles were won all the same. Democracy won, again, and again and again. Democracy will come to the lords sooner or later and posterity will rightly judge the opponents of reform the same way they judge the misogynists of the 20th century and the divine-right-to-rule aristocrats of the 19th century. And if the opponents of reform had any decency, any shred of credibility or concern for the well being of this country and its people then they would get out the way and cease their ridiculous efforts to stop the people of Britain being able to decide who governs Britain. End of.

Update: for those looking for a guide to what the Lords reforms actually are, in order to cut through the squabbling politicians, here's one I made earlier.


  1. One cannot help but think the timing is rather interesting however; the reforms suddenly become popular AFTER the House of Lords defeats the Welfare Reform bill time and time again, so suddenly Cameron scrambles to put 150 Conservative Lords in the House and clamours for reform? Really? Really, George?

    I've seen how the House of Lords works, as did many folk during the Welfare Reform bill. None of the point-scoring, the jeering, heckling and rumbles of " ' erahhhh, 'erahhhh". I didn't have the sinking feeling I tend to have watching the HoC and realising our country is run by a bunch of privileged toddlers. I went and looked up the credentials of the Lords who were speaking - doctors, athletes, charity-organisation creators. In other words, a lot of people who had actually Lived Life, and knew what it was like. They had loyalties some of them, but most of them had something it seems the HoC cannot afford - common sense.

    I am sure, just like Welfare and many other things in the government, the House of Lords needs some form of reform. Never get an argument for that. But I think we should also deal with the fact that many of these reforms have nothing to do with actually making positive changes, but in doing away with those pesky people who dare to speak out against what the Government is doing.

    1. There are currently 80 independent experts in the HoL. Under the reforms there would be 90 independent experts in the HoL.

      The Lords reforms aren't suddenly popular, they were in the coalition agreement from the beginning and a draft bill was published before the WRB was.

      At the moment the majority of Lords are failed MPs who were put their by their party leaders and who slavishly follow the party line - Lords rebel against their party less often than MPs do if you look at the numbers!

      A key point of the reforms is one off, fifteen year terms of office to make sure that they can't stand for re election and therefore don't have to depend on their party for a re election campaign. The whole point behind these proposals is to keep the experts, to make the lords more independent and to let people choose for themselves who sits in the Lords.

      Wouldn't you rather have the choice to vote to keep Lord Freud out of the Lords and some of the other people in?

    2. Honestly, I wouldn't; someone still voted for Freud to be a Lord...last I checked that isn't people themselves, but MPs and government. So it's still not our choice either way. And there are enough people who would still vote Lord Freud in anyway, or the Conservatives wouldn't be in power.

      I don't think voting works. I don't think the current system we have of voting at ALL even works. Period. On the whole I agree with Churchill "The biggest argument against democracy is a ten minute conversation with the average voter." And the public knows this too and hence why the numbers also show less and less people voting. At the end of the day we're all voting for the same people - out of touch elitists who just want to be in power and will do everything they can to hold onto it, even if it means using outdated laws to secure it.

      Lords reform was indeed part of the agreement...but then a lot of things were, and aren't happening. As has been said over and over and over again; I think there's a whole slew of things to be worried about right now (such as children in London starving and suffering from rickets, ffs) than about the House of Lords, but dear me, it's certainly taken precedence, hasn't it?

      Not impressed, me. But then I'm just a little person, not really in it for the politics. I'm just the person all this stuff eventually affects, however. And I'm not particularly impressed at all the roobah and pointscoring about this silly rubbish when people are dying and starving. My tuppence.

  2. The Lords is 'broke' just as the Commons is 'broke' - but I'm doubtful whether the present proposals, if implemented, will necessarily fix it.

    The Commons is often little better than a childrens' playground - I fear a largely elected Lords might become likewise.

  3. I can't understand why Britain can't be like other countries and have an elected senate, with around 100 members, doing a proper day's work. This place is the second largest legislature in the world. |They have wigs and funny robes and ermine collars and they call each other 'noble' through they clearly aren't. And if the Commons don't like what they decide, they ignore it anyway. It's called a revising chamber but some bills originate there. Government ministers are appointed from there. It's a joke.

    As for the noise and fuss in the Commons to which one of your correspondents alluded...I agree. Let's have it stopped now. It's not the Oxford debating Society however much it may look like it. It's where we are running the country from.

    So advice to MPs shut up and pay attention and do the job, or you will be sent off and have your pay sanctioned, like a footballer would if he bawled and shouted at a referee.

    It may be tradition, but it wastes a lot of time... and we don't pay you 3 times the average wage to waste time.

    Oh yeah, and climb down from you own bottoms. You are public servants, not masters.

  4. As someone who considers myself a Liberal i have to disagree with george and the entire Liberal Democrat party on the house of lords reform.

    The house of lords is there to curtail the insanity of the Commons.
    when they do, they are not listened to anyway, so reforming the lords means what,? can someone explain how this is not just a desperate attempt by the Lib Dems to show the electorate that they at least carried out one thing in thier manifesto.

    One more thing to those getting thier knickers in a twist, our private educated very insincere MPs who ask us every 5 years to vote for them so they can ignore us and vote through the party reforms is not what i would call democracy.

    Maybe they should reform themselves rather than give themselves more power.

  5. george, can you point those of us who are unsure what to make of this to a short precis of the reasons for and against this reform? hard to make sense of anything with all the squabbling going on amongst immature politicians!

    1. Well there's this piece I wrote a while back:


      It doesn't take into account the arguments against reform but it does (I hope) give a fair summary of what the reforms actually are and the reasons behind them.

    2. thanks. A few questions - who chooses the candidates for election, and how? How will those candidates make themselves known to the public? Will the HoL have any actual power - or will HoC still be able to over-rule (as they did in recent Bills?

      In my view, any member of either house should actually have to attend debates and work for a certain number of days each session if they are elected and there should be some clause which says if they don't they're out.

    3. Independents will be able to stand but parties will have their internal selection procedures (which differ from party to party - in the Lib Dems all party members in the constituency vote to choose the candidates), come up with a list of candidates and then submit those candidates for elections, much like what happens with the European elections. But, unlike in the European elections, voters will be able to choose between candidates from the same party.

      The HoC will still be able to overrule the HoL.

      The pay for the Lords will be an allowance system - £300 for every day they attend parliament. Which is quite good as it means they don't get paid unless they actually do their jobs. When you consider that MPs get paid a higher salary regardless of whether they show up to parliament or not, I think that system of paying members of the HoL is quite a good idea.

    4. thanks george

  6. thanks for sharing.


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