Thursday, 3 September 2015

Members of the House of Lords are politicians - however you get them there


A chap from You Gov wants a 'politican free House of Lords':

So the answer is clear: to make the House of Lords a politician-free zone. By all means keep the bishops, the former generals, scientists like Lord (Robert) Winston. But anyone who has stood for election, or worked in politics, should be automatically disqualified. The Lords should be chosen from leaders across all other walks of society – what is referred to in Westminster as ‘real life’ – with the express mandate of keeping the political class in check.

There are two problems with this idea. Firstly, Freddie Sayers should check the definition of politics (and therefore of politicians). Politics describes those circumstances where we require - or believe we require - a collectively agreed policy but have people advocating mutually exclusive options for that policy. It is the means by which we make that decision. So anyone involved in deciding between mutually exclusive policy options is, ipso facto, a politician. So those great and good drafted in under Freddie's scheme cease being lawyers, doctors, generals and vicars becoming in short order good old politicians.

The second problem is that we assume that members of the great and good are not attached in any way to any party political or ideological position. This is plainly nonsense for all that the great and good protest about this, laying claim to a grandness raising them above such petty distractions as party political discourse. After all, for all his eccentricity, Lord Winston sits as a Labour peer - I presume this indicates his adherence to that Party's essential ideology.

Just because you have followed some other course in life and (since this is the House of Lords) not bothered with such risky and time-consuming things like actually getting elected, doesn't mean you aren't a politician. Once you become engaged in the process of determining, administering or scrutinising public policy you become a politician - no different to those strange creatures who inhabit the House of Commons.

Finally, a comment on this part of Freddie's nutty idea:

Impossible though it may be for our MPs’ political brains to compute, a politician-free appointed chamber could actually be the most democratic solution.

Excuse me but precisely which part of being appointed to a political position by virtue of some panel of grandees constitutes democracy?

If you want a creative and different House of Lords - how about a lottery?



Anonymous said...

A qualified random lottery works for me as long as they are of good character and are born of this country and swear an oath...and they are easily removable if individuals turn out to be morons or crooks.

Clarissa said...

Or we could admit that the system worked somewhat better back when the hereditary peers where there and just supplement them with people who have never worked inside the system in order to provide views from outside of the bubble.

Anonymous said...

We seem prepared to allow the Justice system to operate on the basis of a qualified lottery, i.e. the Jury service system, so perhaps something similar could apply for the Upper House.

The qualified people (by age, citizenship etc.) thus randomly selected would have an option to take up a place for one 5-year term, with 20% being replaced each year: this would enable continued refreshment to reflect national opinion. They would receive compensation for lost earnings and any pension rights, plus necessary expenses (all receipted, of course).
Unlike Jury Service, it should not be compulsory but perhaps the incentive of an end-of-term MBE might sway enough to participate.

Jonathan Bagley said...

My pet theory is that the hereditary HofL was a very good lottery. From all the country's embryos, take a sample from those whose wealth makes them less corruptible and who benefit from a usually decent expensive education.