Sunday, 16 February 2020

No to House of Lords

As a campaigner for democratic reform, I have always been opposed to the existence of the House of Lords.

There are about 800 men and women who have the right to sit in this so-called “Upper House,” and I do not agree that unelected individuals, largely appointed through political patronage, should have such real and far-reaching legislative influence.

Not so long ago, in 2015, David Cameron created 45 peers to sit in the House of Lords, which comprised a host of retired MPs, MPs who recently lost their seats, political fixers and donors, plus corporate lobbyists.

Described at the time as the “honours that shame Britain,” it was followed by Cameron’s “resignation honours list,” in which the former Prime Minister created another 16 new life peers –13 of which were Conservatives. One was a former treasurer of the Conservative Party, who had personally gifted about £2.5 million to the Tories.

Another 19 peers were created in 2019 as part of another “resignation honours list” and Theresa May’s personal choices were mostly staff members from her administration.

Boris Johnson has already created a couple of new Lords, though newspaper reports suggest there may be more along soon. So far, Nicky Morgan, who stood down as an MP in 2019, and Zac Goldsmith, who actually lost his seat at the last election, were ennobled so that they could continue as government ministers, albeit from the second chamber. It is little wonder that such actions are making a mockery of British democracy.

It my view that the present House of Lords is an out-dated institution that has no place in twenty-first century Britain. For the sake of our democracy, it must be abolished or possibly reformed into a fully elected second chamber.

Previous attempts to reform the Lords have been a shambles, but there is again speculation about efforts to replace the second chamber with one comprising elected representatives from the “nations and regions” of the United Kingdom.

While this would be an improvement, I am worried whether there would be any representatives from Cornwall in the new body. The last time there was a detailed proposal for an elected House of Lords, it was suggested that there should be 33 representatives for the “south west,” elected via a list form of proportional representation.

As is so often the case, unlike Wales and Scotland, our territorial integrity was ignored by the political establishment, which had no concerns about Cornish interests being lost in some amorphous constituency stretching as far as Bristol and Tewkesbury. If reform does finally happen, Cornwall must be guaranteed its own voices.

[This was my article in last week’s Cornish Guardian].

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