Jack Straw, that republican, Brownite firebrand, has put forward a white paper outlining proposals for the House of Lords 
There has been pressure for some time to introduce a semblance of democratic process into the second chamber of Parliament, and the government, which has tinkered a little bit here and there and kept it's foot firmly on the break, is finally giving a little in the hope that a bit of democracy will fall stall a lot of it.
Straw wants to cut the number of peers, have a whole 50% of the Lords elected (once every 15 years) cutting the number of cronies and backhanders in half. Straw justified the compromise by saying "time and time again, the fundamental reform of the House of Lords has failed because, for some, the best has become the enemy of the good".
Of course, as a white paper, this means its still in the ideas stage and a long way off actually getting enacted, if it ever does. I've always been a bit of a fan of the Billy Bragg system that elects the Lords from regional lists using the general election vote as its base. This way there is no extra voting to annoy the busy working public and the Lords becomes fully elected.
The BBC reports a survey that says that "40% [of the British public] wanted a mixture of elected and appointed members, and 42% wanted the second chamber to be fully elected." Which doesn't leave many satisfied with the current arrangement of an elite gang of appointees and hereditary peers.
However, I had a dream the other night. The kind of dream I should keep to myself because it reveals, if there was an doubt, exactly how boring I am. I dreamt that local councils elected one member of the second chamber each. When I woke up I thought, "that's not such a terrible idea really is it"?
There is a real problem in this country in that power has shifted away from the localities into the center. For twenty or thirty years the strength of local councils in comparison to central government has been consistently undermined, leaving the local council very much the junior partner, even when making local decisions.
What if councils elected someone to represent them in the Lords? They could be recallable as and when the council decides, and this would give a real shift back towards the regions without burdening the public with more politicians. You could cut the number of Lords (who'd have to be renamed) down to about a hundred at the same time, to clean it all up a bit. It might even boost voter turnout in local elections.
Some people argue that it's handy having the top of the legal establishment in the second chamber, as they do pass laws after all. Personally I see no reason why we couldn't call them in for advise, after all they aren't elected and therefore don't express the will of the people in even a distorted form, but there's no reason why expert advise could not be sought as and when.
It was just a dream of course but, you know, it's one that has some appeal and unlike Straw's proposals would cut out the possibility of the Prime Minister selling political honours once and for all. not that he'd do that sort of thing you understand, he's a straight kind of guy.
Update: Jack Straw makes his case in CiF
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Jack Straw, that republican, Brownite firebrand, has put forward a white paper outlining proposals for the House of Lords