Wednesday, 14 September 2011


I got an email from "Unlock Democracy" asking for my views on the House of Lords reforms.

There are two parts to it. The first involves answering a few questions about how you think the Lords should be. The second is an "in your own words" comment. This is what I put on the form.

"In the 21st century, it seems to me that it is laughable that a country which is prepared to go to war to promote democracy has a House of Lords.

That 90+ members of that house should comprise of hereditary peers is beyond understanding.

"Far too many peers have been sent from the Commons as reward for faithful service to party.Once upon a time the PM and maybe the Foreign Secretary were put upstairs, now it's junior ministers at the Environment Dept, et al.

"Each time the colour of the commons changes the balance has to be redressed, meaning that we now have some 900 peers. It's the largest house in the world next to the Chinese People's Assembly.

"There should be no bishops of the English church in the Lords. Quite apart from the fact that there are people of all religions and none in the country, the English Church could never have been said to represent Scotland, Ireland or Wales, nor the Roman Catholics, Methodists, Congregationalists, etc, etc....

"We need a senate like any other small western democracy. There should be no titles, and people mustn't be allowed to think that once elected the job is theirs for fifteen years.

They should have to be re-elected every 5 years on a rotating system. There need be no more than 100, unless they are working constituency MSs, which I don’t think they should be.

"Those who currently hold the title and sit in the lords should be given notice in advance that the gravy train of £300+ a day stops here and they should dismount. They should be allowed to keep their ridiculous titles if they wish, but people who go to the Senate, should be Mr and Mrs like the rest of us. For hereditaries, titles should die with the current holder. You cannot promote equality in the country when people are calling themselves Earl or Marquis and demanding that others refer to them as Your Grace or Your Lordship.

"The salary should be smaller than that of an MP. They will do little or no constituency work; I see no reason to pay them for what they do not do.

"Of course one excellent idea would be to simply get rid of them altogether. What was it they are supposed to do?

"In Scotland we have no second house, but we have far better legislation without it being scrutinised by "experts".

"Please can we stop having a privileged class with titles at the top?"

Incidentally, as I was filling in the questionnaire, I was thinking about our friend Lord Hanningfield, who apparently was (according to the judge) given a lenient sentence because he was suffering from clinical depression and was in frail health (brought on by being caught). He would find prison according to the judge, more distressing and depressing than other people.

So, then they let the clinically depressed Lord out VERY early.

He's obviously feeling a good deal better as he strolls round his village with his dog... or he was until he was re-arrested; this time for defrauding the county council which he led, as the same time as being a thieving git up in Wastemonster. And although he's out on licence for one crime, he has been bailed to appear in court, instead of being bundled straight back to the pokey.

You couldn't make these characters up, even if you were capable of dreaming up characters like Voldermort.


  1. £300 a day for the lordships to sit sleeping and pissing themselves and farting all day ? Peanuts.
    Council Leaders make double this for playing golf, surfing the web and generally making our lives miserable.
    Paid for by council tax payers who are grateful if the council manages to empty their bin once a fortnight.
    The good thing about the House of Lords is that the biggest vermin are all in one place when the people finally start to round them up.

  2. LOL Monty. I've no problem in getting rid of the Council leaders too!

  3. Sack the lot forthwith and appoint me as a benevolent dictator with Tris's mum as my consort as Cutie Cathy will have to go with the rest of the parasites.

    I will ensure that Monty's bins will be emptied daily and his empties binned. I will ensure that Niko's community service will be commuted and the stain on his character erased with the stains on his tie.

    If I decide to offer you peasants independence you will be £5000 a year worse off and as a result I will, of course, will be a multi-millionaire.

    I hereby promise not to be beastly and horrid to anyone except those who fail to fawn and brown-nose me or buy me drink.

    My manifesto (is this sexist?) will shortly appear on my blog for the edification of some poor soul who has googled Brown's lies and gets trapped in my web of deceit.

    PS: No, Tris, I'm quite sober!

  4. brownlie..

    Would you get rid of all the MPs' as well ?
    I'd vote for you if it wasn't a dictatorship you were going to run.

    Headline fail of the day....

    " Most MPs are good people who work hard "

    From caron's musings. LOL

    Weren't most MPs involved in the expenses scandal in one way or another ?
    Most MPs voted for war in Iraq/ Afghanstan.
    Most MPs follow the party whip ( sorry Gideon etc)
    Most MPs only show their faces around their constitencies come election time.

  5. Yes, them as well. I won't need them but I'll be suitably benevolent and let them claim benefits. Yes to all your other questions but, in future, a smallish charge will be made for my answers.

  6. Well it all sounds quite reasonable to me. I guess I'd get special treatment if my mum was consort, so I'll not be moaning.

    As to your smallish change John, I trust I shall be exempted?

  7. We'd have to tape up the windows too.

  8. "So, then they let the clinically depressed Lord out VERY early."

  9. Ah yes Anon. But she's not a lord. Now from what I read of the story her new husband doesn't much care for her kids, and he's going to be left to look after them.

    So I wonder how depressed she's going to be?

    Of course, to be fair this is a different legal system so we may be comparing apples with oranges. After all had it happened in Saudi, she might have been whipped and hand her hand cut off, whereas in Greenland she would go to jail, but she'd go home every night to look after her kids...

  10. Abolish the HoL?

    Okay, but only if we replace it with a chamber of merit.

    That is, say, 150 odd life-appointees who are senior constit academics, Doctors, businessmen, etc people of estimable experience IN REAL LIFE and in matters of expert knowledge ... because, frankly, I would sooner be governed by them than 'elected' politicians (who are typically corrupt, or useless in any other carrer/walk of life).

  11. I take your point Dean.

    First of all I agree with your numbers. If the USA can manage with a Senate of 100 members I'm damned if I can see why the UK has needed going on for a thousand.

    My immediate reaction to appointed people is NO. Democracy says that we have to have a say in who they are. On the other hand I take your point that many of our politicians have no experience of real life. Whether this is because politics is all they have done since they were at university, or because they were born filthy rich and have missed out on the trials and tribulations that ordinary people live with makes no real difference. They don't know squat about life.

    But if we go down the appointed route, then we have to wonder, appointed by whom? The Queen? The Privy Council? Surely not David and Nick? Me maybe?

    Politicians are, by and large corrupt (if they are so, and not all are), because they have the opportunity to be corrupt and nothing to stop them.

    In the UK they are treated with awestruck respect, despite the fact that they're only people like you and me. Perhaps because in the past they only came from the homes of the 'great and the good'.

    They make their own rules and, of course, these rules are favourable to them. They decided that they didn't have to have receipts for expenses; they decided they would travel 1st class wherever they went; they decided that they would have pensions like no one else; they decided that their pay would go up and up...and so on.

    I think it was Lord Acton who said that power corrupts.. and he was right. Maybe the House of doctors, engineers, historians, etc, given their life tenure would become extremely corrupt too.

    It is a puzzle, but I'm interested in what people think about it.

    I still wonder if there is actually a need for them. Scrutiny can be done in committee stages of Bills. They are largely unnecessary.

  12. So Hanningfield served less than Norman Scarth, an 85 yr old in poor law for them as has friends in the judiciary and another for the peasants eh! I bet that was why they let Norman out so they could point at him and say "fairs fair we let him out didnt we"... one wordbegins with a B ends with an S and rhymes with Bustards...oops sorry bit obvious that one eh!

  13. Yes, nominedeus, Norman Scarth who apparently showed "utter contempt for all lawyers and judges". All he did was say: “Her Majesty the Queen, whose courts these are, is badly served by the shysters who now infest the judiciary.“ perhaps a little over the top; an exaggeration, but what happened to free speech. he didn't HIT anyone, he didn't STEAL anything.

    On the other hand Hanningfield seems to have stolen as much money as he could one way and another, what with chauffeur driven cars at the public expense.

    We should never have doubted that the law was uneven and unfair in England. I suspect that it is in Scotland too.

    I certainly remember the case of an now ex MSP being caught using a cell phone while driving appearing in court in Cupar, I think it was.

    It was accepted by the court that he had simply been holding it in his hand, and not for the purposes of communication in any way. I expect they must have gone to the same school, or university, or belonged to the same club or something. No one would ever have believed me if I'd tried that little wrinkle.

    I'll let you know when I work out the word you were trying to indicate there.

  14. I find the debate on HoL reform infuriating, to be honest. Mainly because I can't help but feel that many people have lost sight of what it is supposed to do.

    The reason we have a revising chamber is because parliamentary democracy needs checks and balances. Crazy legislation can't be rushed through by the Commons because we have the Lords. In theory, not the worst of ideas.

    However, the fact the HoL is made up almost entirely of loyal party has-beens or hereditaries makes it a laughing stock. So what should we do? Elected HoL? Personally, I think that's a terrible idea. An elected second chamber to scrutinise legilation passed by another tier of elected representatives? Why?

    In the modern era it really would make a lot more sense to move to unicameralism but employ PR. That in itself ensures there's a check on political power - no party is going to be able to bring in mental policies on the back of a measly 35% popular support. They'd need to govern sensibly as a minority/coalition by convincing others of the merits of their political programme.

    Just think, there are a lot of pennies to be saved by scrapping the thing...

  15. Alex. Hello and welcome to Munguin's Republic.

    I'm inclined to be of that opinion too. Get rid of them, save the money and work with one PR elected chamber.

    Mind you, on the back of some 30 odd% of the votes we had Blair off to war with whomsoever Mr Bush told him...

    Anyway. Congratulations on your PhD. Bet your glad that's over! I hope you find work soon.

  16. Alex,

    Unicamerical? I suppose you'd seek to convert HoC committee stages into much more serious (and totally independent -- of whips, and party lines) affairs. That way we could have the scrutiny required -- but it still leaves the fundamental point, that of elected politicians (with no life experience) dominating the law-making process.

    I still believe in a second chamber, of US-senate style numbers, appointed on merit.

  17. What if, Dean, we proposed entry qualifications for MPs, as we do for so many other jobs. In this case not educational qualifications, but a statutory say 10 years' experience in a job unrelated to politics. Butcher, Baker, Doctor, Docker, Artist, Artisan... Would that meet the lack of experience problem which you rightly raise?

  18. They have a good case there CH

  19. Yris,

    Entry qualifications inherently favour those who have the means to buy better educational advantages.

  20. The idea of a "revising chamber" to provide checks and balances is interesting from an American perspective. American government textbooks blather on endlessly about the genius of the checks and balances of the American system with its individually elected Executive and bicameral Legislative authorities. If it's so ingenious, why have the other democracies ignored it for the last couple of hundred years in favor of parliamentary systems? Because it produces governmental gridlock when opposing parties are in charge of the three governing authorities.

    On the other hand, the US Senate is a powerful check on runaway legislative authority when the lower house is taken over by a currently popular radical political faction, such as today's Tea Party Republicans.

    So why should the upper house be popularly elected you may ask? In the US, that's a modern innovation. Under the original Constitution, the Senators were chosen by the state legislatures, and represented the states equally (two senators per state). Only the House of Representatives (the "people's house") was popularly elected. This was a key large-state/small-state compromise in the drafting of the federal constitution. Senators have only been popularly elected since the passage of the 17th Amendment to the constitution in 1913. All in all, there seems to be both advantages and disadvantages to an individually (and popularly) elected upper house.

    BTW, to locate the date of the 17th Amendment, I went to Wikipedia and found something interesting. The name of the Roman senate came from the Latin "senatus" for "council of elders." This in term came from "senex" meaning "old man." So the root word for "senate" is the same as the one for "senility." In this sense, I suppose that the House of Lords as you describe it could easily be named the "Senate." ;-)

  21. Oh Danny, only you could justify intellectually what we have all known for years. The House of Lords is a repository for daft blokes (and blokesses). If only, however, they were all old. Then we wouldn't have to look forward to hearing their wit and wisdom for so long. Some of them are only in their 30s though to all intents and purposes practically senile.

    I have often wondered how on Earth the USA gets any kind of legislation passed...ever. It must be a rarity for the House, Senate and President to be of accord.

    And now, Republicans can be found in contention with their own mad right tea bags.

    How did you guys come to be the most powerful and richest nation in the world?

  22. Dean: I didn't mean that kind of entry qualification.

    10 years as a social worker or a post man gives you a fair experience of the world, as does 10 years as a doctor, carpet layer, barman, psychologist, hospital cleaner....

    THAT is the kind of experience I mean.

  23. Scotland Bill amendments.

    Those Scots can't vote correctly, are unable to run anything, we will have to constrain them so we can always win.

  24. Hard to legislate for that, plus, it is fundamentally anti-democratic. It means that not everyone has the democratic right to represent his/her own/community interests in elections.

  25. Good lord CH.

    ffoulkes is bad and bad enough but that dinosaur Forsyth is a joke.

    However, I understand it has to be passed by the Scottish parliament too, and that means that I assume it will fail.

    Old fools like him should be careful. Can they not take a lesson from what has happened to opinion polls thanks to Cameron treating Scotland like some Flashman joke, and the idiot Liberals, pretending to be big shots and talking their country down (incompetently, as they do everything else).

    Too wee, too stupid and too poor...

    Honestly, they make me utterly sick.

  26. Well although it would be hard, Dean, I don't think it would be impossible to legislate for an "experience of something" clause, even if it were unemployment. My problem is the schoold, uni, research assistant, MP, Lord path.

    Maybe it's never been done, but if you can demand some sort of experience for other jobs, why can't you demand experience for this one.

    There are age limits on some jobs... at the bottom and at the top. You can start work in the UK at 16 but you can't stand as an MP until you are 18.

    It's just a thought...

    Under your system of appointed "luminaries" who would do the appointing?

  27. I was going to suggest that Belgium was an example of a country that is managing along without a government,hasn't really made a lot of difference but of course they are still paying them after
    eighteen months, so it's a bit of a two edged sword.
    Still as Brussels in its EU mode is (at this moment in time)running and legislating most things i don't suppose we would really miss our lot either,save a lot of money ,think of the expenses alone.

  28. wiggiatlarge. Hello. Welcome to Munguin's Republic.

    I think not having a government sounds like a good idea; they are more trouble than enough. The idea of paying them though... sucks!

    Given the mess that the London government seems to be making... growth downgraded again today, and the IMF, Gideon's greatest fans up till now, seeming to advise that the plan B that he doesn't have might be a good idea.

    I don't think we should pay them regardless of whether they do anything or not.