Lording over democracy: what reforms we really need

Our report from the House of Commons on the Lords Reform debate produced several insightful comments from Inside Croydon readers. Reform of the second chamber may not be the most important matter facing the government, but it is significant because democratic reform was demanded by the Liberal Democrats as a condition of their joining the coalition.

British democracy, 21st century style

We asked an influential local LibDem, STEVEN GAUGE, to outline what reforms he would want given a blank sheet

Simple: a wholly elected proportional second chamber to deal with and balance the inherent unfairness of a first-past-the-post-first chamber.

I’d go for a party list system. It would be something that could have stopped a Gulf War or the Poll Tax.

I’d elect them both at the same time and for the same term. Parties could elect their list of candidates in the order they would like them appointed. Roughly the same lot of elder statesmen and useful sorts who can’t for various reasons manage to get elected in a constituency, but still have good things to contribute.

That way you get the best of both worlds – nice local MPs with a good relationship with a local community and a proportional second chamber that accurately reflects the views of the nation as a whole.

I’d make all laws have to be passed by both Houses.

While we were at it, I’d abolish the monarchy and have a directly elected President in a mostly ceremonial role, the chair of the upper chamber.

At a push, I could possibly accept including an appointed element of non-political party types to a second chamber, in the same proportion as the proportion of people who didn’t vote in the election, so if you can’t be bothered to vote, then some “expert” gets appointed by a committee of the great and good to decide things for you.

So 70 per cent turnout in the election would give 30 per cent of the seats by “appointment”.

Steven Gauge: influential LibDem based in south London

But having said that I’m beginning to think that voting should be compulsory – a bit like wearing seatbelts. We all know we should wear seat belts but it took a law to make sure we all actually did.

  • Steven Gauge is a senior consultant at PLMR, a political PR agency. A former CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Gauge has been a LibDem local councillor in south London and organised general election campaign tours for Charles Kennedy and, in 2010, Nick Clegg. So it’s all his fault…
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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Lording over democracy: what reforms we really need

  1. I’m still not happy about the thought of having an elected second chamber.

    To my way of thinking the checks and balances system we have at the moment means that whilst MPs can/are harassed by their Whips into voting a certain way, sometimes against their constituents’ wishes, the upper chamber is there to scrutinise any proposed legislation and, if need be, return any Bill to the Commons for amendment or clarification.

    My concerns are:

    If the Upper Chamber becomes elected along party lines, isn’t there the risk that intervention by Party Whips will greatly influence how Members will vote?

    If the Lower and Upper Houses are dominated by differing political factions isn’t there a risk of a stalemate? Just look at the United States system.

    Will legislation be thoroughly scrutinised as it is as the present? Or will it just be pushed through along party lines?

    By all means get rid of those peers who either fail to attend the Upper chamber at all and those who only attend rarely. But surely we need some impartiality in the second chamber?

  2. “risk that intervention by Party Whips will greatly influence how Members will vote?” and how does that differ from the situation today where the Party Leaders give the seats to their cronies?

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