The House of Lords represents exactly what Britain used to be.
It’s a space dominated by those who’ve made it there purely through who they know or how they were born, as opposed to their talent, work ethic and achievement. It’s one of the last remnants of a society that only worked for a very, very privileged few and neglected almost everyone else.
It’s my firm belief that the House of Lords in its current form HAS to go. It’s well past its sell-by date, and has ceased to function as an important part of our legislative system. Its supporters will argue that it's vital to checking the legislation that comes out of the Commons and ensuring that it can actually work.
‘Members of the House of Lords are experts in their fields’ is a commonly heard argument. And while to an extent this is true, it’s not strictly relevant.
Yes, doctors are experts in medicine, judges are experts in the law and athletes are experts in sport, but why would you want Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson reviewing medical legislation? My point is that while they may be experts in their own field, the House of Lords reviews legislation from all fields. Furthermore, expertise is not a prerequisite for government. If that was true, we’d have an appointed government instead of a democratically elected one. Politicians are meant to represent the people, not the upper echelons of British society or intellect.
Countries around the world function without appointed chambers, and there are all sorts of systems that support bicameral legislation. For example, in Germany there is a federal chamber, and in the US there is the House of Representatives and a fully elected Senate. It’s perfectly possible to produce quality legislation without compromising our basic democratic morals
There are a whole host of options. Personally I would like to see a federal chamber, similar to Germany, with representatives from each of the four nations of the UK. But pretty much any of the other options seen across the world would be better than our current shambles.
My one request would be that the chamber still be called ‘The House of Lords’, because when foreign leaders and the Queen address the fully assembled parliament as ‘My Lords, Ladies and Members of Parliament’, I do feel very British.
(The image above is the Australian senate- a viable alternative system to the House of Lords.)