Wednesday 28th October
I have always thought the House of Lords a complete anomaly. Originally it was by far the most important of the two Houses of Parliament, as if like the King, Lords governed by Divine Right. But slowly the ascendancy of the Commons has been established. The Americans took the idea of a second revising chamber further and made this also an elected body. Though another anomaly of the American system is that each State elects two Senators regardless of the size of the electorate. Senators serve for six years and one third is elected every two years, so that there is a slower evolving idea of public opinion.
Our House of Lords has been slowly changing too, with less Hereditary Peers (but still some, and the ridiculous idea of Bishops) and far more appointed ‘Lords’. In many cases this is simply a gravy train for retired Politicians, a reward for services to the Party, and totally indefensible in the Modern World. And in some ways we should ask “Why do we need a second ‘revising’ chamber anyway?” “What is wrong with Democracy?” And on one level I do agree. However we do not have Democracy, or anything approaching it. Under the ‘first past the post’ system we have had successive Governments with majorities who won far less than 40% of the vote. If we had true Proportional Representation then the Government might have more validity. Also there should be some mechanism to ensure that things which are promised in the Manifesto are actually acted upon, and promises made during the campaign are adhered to. However I quite like the idea of a second chamber which can look at and amend proposed legislation provided it is elected.
And last night we had the Lords to thank for stopping, or at least causing a pause for thought, a particularly nasty piece of Legislation which would have (and may still do, of course) hit the poorest in our society very hard indeed. This Government did not include these measures in their Manifesto, and specifically denied they would change Family Tax Credit during the election campaign. So, good on you, House of Lords – unelected and ridiculous as you may be.