In recent days the lingerie entrepreneur Michelle Mone has been offered a peerage and will sit in the House of Lords as a Conservative Peer. This, coupled with the recent scandals over Lord Sewell’s activities and continued concerns regarding Lords’ expenses, has reignited the debate over whether the Lords’ should be reformed.
The continued expansion of the Lords by direct prime ministerial appointment already spits in the eye of anybody who passionately believes in democracy, however this action has become particularly intolerable as Cameron has made it abundantly clear that his new all-Tory government will be looking to reduce the number of (somewhat) democratically elected representatives to 600 from the current number of 650.
Despite the recent scandals the PM has repeatedly refused to enact any House of Lords reform, presumably because it is way for the government of the day to strengthen their position in the revising chamber, thus enabling more of their legislative agenda to get through with less scrutiny.
The hypocrisy becomes more pronounced when the continued expansion of the Lords and the promise to shrink the size of the Commons are put in a direct comparison. The justification given by top Conservative politicians for a smaller Commons is that it would be a way of cutting the cost of the state, which would be accurate, but there are many more political reasons for a diminished House of Commons.
Firstly it allows the Tories to play into the public distrust of politics and it will allow them to take on the mantle of ‘political reformers’ trying to ‘clean up Westminster’, and the Lib Dems won’t be able to answer back due to their severely reduced number.
Secondly with there new persona as the party of political reform, the Tories will push through boundary reforms that the Lib Dems prevented whilst in coalition. With it harder for Labour to regain power, on electoral grounds alone, the Conservatives will be emboldened to push through controversial policies in the full knowledge that they will be in a better electoral position then at the last election.
Finally the Executive will also be able to strategically get rid of constituencies that send loud-mouthed backbench Tories thus reducing Parliamentary scrutiny over government business and increasing the possibility of the government winning parliamentary votes.
As I have mentioned another post my preferred solution to this hypocrisy is the abolition of the Lords which would remove this undemocratic relic from the British political system whilst also saving an amount of money saved look gargantuan when compared with the fifty salaries Cameron is touting as a good saving.
Britain like the devolved nations and many other legislatures around the world could easily govern itself through a unicameral system which would be solely accountable to the electorate. A more moderate position would be to radically overhaul the current system by replacing the largely unelected Lords with a U.S. Senate-style system with senators elected from each county.
Whatever the future of the British political system, particularly in this era of constitutional reform post-Smith Commission, the hypocrisy of the Cameron government has to be pointed out, even if Labour as so obsessed by internal ideological angst to respond to my frustrations.