Lords reform simple? Never


Sometimes people tell me they don't understand politics. Sometimes it's not hard to see why. Take reform of the House of Lords.

All the main party manifestos backed the idea that those who make our laws should be elected rather than appointed to, or inheriting, the job.

All three party leaders say they are committed to reform.

All say they will order their MPs to back it.

Yet the widespread view in the Westminster village is that it won't happen.

Why? Well, Lords reform has always been defeated by those passionately opposed to change finding a way to vote with those passionately in favour of change but opposed to whatever plan happens to be on the table at the time.

So it was that in 1968 Labour's Michael Foot - who wanted to scrap the Lords altogether - united with the then Tory Enoch Powell - who wanted it to stay just as it was - and led a coalition which defeated change.

So it was in 1998 when the Tory leader of the Lords, Viscount Cranborne, secretly reached a deal with Tony Blair without telling his own leader William Hague. It limited New Labour's "bold" reform to the abolition of places in the Lords for most - but not all - hereditary peers.

So it could be now if anti-reform Tory MPs - of which there are many - vote with pro-reform Labour MPs. There will be many opportunities for them to do so on

  • the timetabling of debates on Lords reform (sounds dull but the first step towards chaos for any government is losing control of its parliamentary timetable and Labour say they will oppose the so-called 'programme motion' which sets the timetable)
  • the need for a referendum (Ed Miliband says it's vital, so too do many Tory rebels)
  • the voting system for the new Lords or Senators (the proposal which almost no-one likes is for a variant of the system used to elect MEPs - a PR list system in which you can pick an individual and not just a party)

So, it's simple really.

The public votes for parties that promise reform of the Lords. Parties are led by people who are in favour of reform. Yet reform may not happen.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If the Lords are elected, on what basis would they be elected? what promises would or could they make to their electorate? Their job is the check through, think through and revise laws from the commons, not to make laws or set policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The current system is clearly failing; every time a new government comes in they simply pile in more and more peers in order to 'redress' the balance. We now have 775 active members, over a hundred more than the 'primary' chamber and more than can actually fit in the place.

    Let just be grown up about this, come to some compromise and get it implemented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Funny the politicians hate change when it affects them but when it comes to welfare education armed forces the NHS its all fair game and the politicians listen to vested interests party donors think tanks but when it comes to somthing that directly affects them no change unless its their pay and pension and they only go up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I do not agree with those who wish to make the house of lords completely democratic.Democracy is not a holy grail and there are plenty of examples where it in fact interferes with getting the right policy through, because the right thing is not always popular.I know plenty of people hate this notion but I think having a mixed political system is preferable -US senators are never corrupt are they?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The problem with a democratically elected second chamber would be you either hold elections at the same time as the first chamber or you stagger them. If simultaneous, the second chamber just mirrors the first and is pointless. If staggered, the second chamber is elected on a mid-term protest vote and you get legislative paralysis.
    But of course, having hereditary peers is ridiculous.


Comments 5 of 146



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