House of Lords “reform”…and some sound suggestions following yesterday’s post

David Davis

The first three comments on our tract of yesterday, just below this post and also here, were sufficuently constructive that I thought they should receive full post status in one piece, unedited. and,I must add that this is _not_ a rather thin excuse to keep promoting IanB’s perennially hyper-sensible and humorous thoughts up to “writer” level instead of regular commentator…..

Ian B | 1 May, 2012 at 8:11 pm | | Edit

The best we can say about the old Lords was that it was better than the Commons. But that is like saying somebody is more charming than Gordon Brown. Faint praise indeed.

It has ancient roots, but those roots are feudal, and we no longer live in a feudal society, in which the majority of the populace are bonded to a Lord. There is no constitutional justification any more for a special place for “lords”. But then neither is there any justificaiton for the pretense that the Parliament is an advisory body to a monarch’s power, that the effective president of a republic-with-a-figurehead is just “first lord of the treasury”, or for any of the other antiquated paraphernalia of a system which is now entirely discredited. Rome went from sorta-representative republic to dictatorship to oriental despotism over several centuries; England has moved from fedual monarchy to reasonably functional imperial oligarchy to dictatorship-by-committee in less than four.

One constitutional reform would be to replace the “Lords” with a house appointed by lottery; half of it each year. Remuneration should be generous, since nobody can make a career of being there. It would offer a broad cross-section of the electorate, and should have the power of absolute veto of any rubbish the Commons throws at it. It might be objected that such randomly appointed commoners would be ignorant, stupid, lazy or mad, and this is true, but the proportions would certainly be lower than in the Commons.

Alternatively, something involving gunpowder.

Patricia | 1 May, 2012 at 9:00 pm | | Edit

Even if it were desirable to return to the old Lords we couldn’t. So much damage has been do it under nu-labour any idea of it as being a check against excessive and damaging government has long since disappeared.
I would be in favour of an elected chamber provided certain conditions were met. Candidates must be born here and have roots back for at least three generations. Equal weight should be given to commerce and industry; the church; public sector;the armed forces. Also, candidates should be at least forty years old.
Actually, this sounds like a good idea for a representative democracy.
Perhaps we should have one of those too.

Dr Sean Gabb | 1 May, 2012 at 11:00 pm | | Edit

I agree. The ancient constitution has been destroyed. I hoped its forms would last a little longer than they did. But, if I could never myself have destroyed them, I see no reason for trying to bring them back. Any constitutional reconstruction must begin with such safeguards on power as may presently be found convenient. I agree with Ian B that some kind of jury system would be helpful – though we do need to think of institutions that would have immediate popular legitimacy. I think of the various constitutions that failed in France between the destruction of the ancien regime and the Buonaparte coup.

3 responses to “House of Lords “reform”…and some sound suggestions following yesterday’s post

  1. The more I suggest it (and I do like to suggest it regularly in various internets places) the more I like my “House Of Lottery”.

  2. I made a similar suggestion many years ago. Since great minds think alike, this is worth crying up. Sortition was part of an Athenian Constitution that remained stable for about 250 years.

  3. Well, it’s a good idea isnt’ it? That’s why the oligarchy will never allow it.