Rescuing House of Lords reform from Mr Straw: write to your MP now!
I have sent this urgent message to my unfortunate MP. Please write similarly to your own MP, without delay: the debate and vote are imminent:
I am writing to urge you to cast your free vote on House of Lords reform for a genuinely democratic reformed second chamber, which can only mean:
- All its members (or an absolute minimum of 80 per cent of them) directly elected. But if there are multiple votes on this, it may be necessary to vote for 60 per cent as well as for 80 and 100, in order to head off something even worse;
- If there are any appointed members, the political parties, their leaders, the prime minister and other party officials should have absolutely no say in the nomination or appointment processes — this kind of patronage is now utterly discredited, and if the present parliament and government try to perpetuate it in whatever form, they will be discredited too;
- Elections to the second chamber to be by a completely open form of proportional representation that will encourage the election of independents, mavericks, non-political experts and others who will contribute added value to its proceedings, as well as politicians. There should be no question of a party list system, even the so-called 'open' list system proposed by Mr Straw, which will simply tighten the grip of the political establishment in the House of Commons on the second chamber and will be strongly resented by public opinion;
- Anyone who has served in the House of Commons should be ineligible for election or appointment to the second chamber (to stop the disgraceful practice of using it as a compensation and pay-off for failed and superannuated party hacks), and no-one who has served in the second chamber should subsequently be eligible for election to the House of Commons, even after a cooling-off period;
- No bishops! There's no conceivable case for preserving this offensive and discriminatory anomaly, which insults Muslims, Roman Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Scientologists, Buddhists and the huge majority of us who have no religion;
- No diminution in the existing powers or role of the House of Lords;
- Recognition that even a 100 per cent elected second chamber couldn't challenge the supremacy of the House of Commons, (a) because the government springs from and is hosted by the Commons as the chamber where all significant ministers sit, and (b) because of the sharply limited powers and role of the second chamber compared with the Commons. Fear of a challenge by the second chamber to the Commons is pure paranoia — or ignorance, or a pretext for establishing and maintaining the overwhelming power of the executive over both houses of Parliament.
If it becomes procedurally possible, I would hope that you will be able to vote for both the 60% elected and 80% elected options, as well as the 100% option as first choice. You will remember that in 2003, the 80% elected option fell by just three votes. It would be a disaster if that were to happen again. This may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this issue right at last.
By all means, if you agree with them, please make these seven points the backbone of any speech you are able to make in the forthcoming debate! But above all please vote in accordance with them. Most of the Straw proposals are dismally flawed to an almost unbelievable degree.
I also hope you will agree to attend and support the Rally for a Democratic House of Lords to be held in the House of Commons Grand Committee Room on Monday 26 February from 7pm. I understand that it is to be chaired by Chris Bryan MP, and that Neil Kinnock, Charles Kennedy and Kenneth Clarke have been invited to speak.
I see that you haven't so far signed Early Day Motion 789, but I hope you will feel able to do so.