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Don’t leave the Lords hostage to party hacks
9th July 2012
During the seven years I spent in the House of Lords, I saw plenty of reasons for reform. But not in the ways at present proposed. And not by the people proposing to do it either.
The day I made my maiden speech, another first-timer was a significant party donor whom I never saw in the chamber again. The people I did see were former MPs: dozens of them. Some made significant contributions. Most, though, turned up for question time, enjoyed half an hour of nostalgic party squabbling, then disappeared, having done enough to collect their daily allowance. Allowing the Lords to be an expensive vanity accessory or an old boys’ (and girls’) club are the most obvious current abuses.
The usual charge, that the Commons is “democratic” and “accountable” while the Lords isn’t, is naive. Most Commons seats are “safe”. I have lived in seven different constituencies, only one of which was remotely likely to change sides at an election. The MPs who represented me were chosen by a few local activists or simply nominated from party HQ — to a job for life, or until sent to the club next door. Accountable? Not visibly. Even worse would be party-list “senators” serving a non-renewable 15 years.
Most of the Lords, by contrast — except for party donors and former MPs — have been chosen repeatedly within their spheres. They have run prisons, universities, hospitals, businesses, top charities. They have commanded armies in the field. Their lifelong accountability has been searching and stringent. Do we really want to dispense with their hard-won wisdom and replace them with more like the other lot?
Tom Wright | Read this article in full on thetimes.co.uk£