30 March 2006

Let's abolish the house of Tory bigots.

The 'Tory' House of Lords only comes alive during Labour governments. They have opposed this government over 400 times since 1997, and the government rather than lose parliamentary time have given concessions on 40% of bills. Some of the ammendments like the ones for the Religious and Racial hatred bill were a good thing, but it's a shame the House of Lords didn't show the same level of concern about the Poll Tax or the abolition of local government that the Tories inflicted on us when in power.

The Lords priorities are clear, shown by where the Parliament Act has had to be used; they are pro-hunting, protected Nazi war criminals, and opposed gay rights and other minority rights. These are not the priorities of the electorate and the way to correct this is an elected chamber. To avoid challenging the supremacy of the Commons, the Lords has to be elected in a different way.

Firstly the Commons should be elected in the most democratic way possible and that is an 'open' list PR system like the one proposed by Hansard in 1976.

There would be 320 constituencies electing 640 MPs. Voters have only one vote (like at present) electing 320 MPs by FPTP and the ‘additional’ 320 seats are awarded to the parties’ best losers in the constituencies (the number of MPs each party gets is determined by their share of the national vote). All MPs would be tied to a constituency, the link would be stronger and we would have a totally proportional system so people can vote for who they like.

Secondly the best aspect of the Lords needs to be preserved, and that is the expert knowledge of some of the members and the longevity in the house. I would propose that half of the members are elected in 'vocational constituencies' for 3 parliamentary terms (15 years) in proportion to the number of the population in each particular occupation. The other half would be selected by a national lottery again serving for 3 parliamentary terms.

The one good thing about the 'loans for peerages' scandal is that it has got party funding and House of Lords reform onto the agenda.

Nobody wants automatic compulsory state funding. Not many realise that we already do have this in the form of the 'Short funding' and that the biggest recipients are the Conservative Party. I think this should be scrapped.

But to combat rich individuals and big organisations having undue influence on policy, we need to cap donations and I do think we should have state funding (but voluntary) decided by the individual on the ballot paper by specifically having to tick a box of the local party they want funding to go to. If they don't tick any box, no party gets any money - simple. Political parties would have to 'earn' their money by getting higher turnouts at elections and persuading people they were worth state funding. The system we have at present and the system being proposed by the Tories would be the worst of all worlds.

The present system is a stitch up between the main parties, with the bulk of funding going to Labour and the Tories, smaller parties don't get a look in.

The Tory proposals wouldn't be so bad if we had a democratic electoral system. They propose compulsory state funding based on vote share (of course skewed in the big parties favour by the electoral system) and only if a party wins 2 seats. This conveniently means no independent or small party will get any funding. A hopelessly and purposely biased system. The Tories also propose setting the cap on individual donations the same as the cap on organisational donations. A deliberate and partial policy to limit trade unions and strengthen the importance of rich individuals. The final Tory proposal is to reduce the number of MPs, this is nothing to do with party funding, but just a sneaky way of gerrymandering boundaries back in their favour.

The only party that has done anything to clean up the system (made a start on House of Lords reform and made donations transparent) is ironically the party the press accuse of being the most sleazy - The Labour Party. They are also the only party that will continue to improve things.


  1. The Blue Foxxx31/3/06 10:59 am

    Interesting post Neil.

    I particularly like, and have long argue for (in the pub, wonder why no-one wants to drink with me any more...) a purely PR elected House of Lords (name to be amended as per sponsorship deal ;-))

    I also like, and has not previously thought or heard of, the idea of a longer serving House of Lords. On forst consideration this seems like an excellent proposal, though 15 years seems too long (still less than life membership though!)

    I'm not sure about the idea of 'vocational constituencies', perhaps because I'm not clear what you're talking about here (would only people employed in the sector be eligible to stand or does this relate to a division of electorate along occupational lines, or something else entirely) - we haven't all thought and read as much as you on this, any good links?

    Same with'national lottery' - could you clarify, or have you posted on this before?

    It does seem a truly wasted opportunity that this issue wasn't dealt with in Labour's first two terms, they may have done the most but could have doen so much more so easily (unfortunately probably applicable to most issues...)

  2. The Blue Foxxx31/3/06 11:44 am

    "Nobody wants automatic compulsory state funding."

    I do.

    "If they don't tick any box, no party gets any money - simple."

    So what ... the money is returned to them, they pay less tax, or it then just sits in a pot or cross subsidesis other govt. activity?

    I know you have written elsewhere on the pernicious effect of the 'tory' press. I think the label is simplistic, but they clearly have an ideological agenda, which they pump out daily. This is clearly to the detriment of ANY political policy or party in opposition to them - combating this and getting your message across accurately neccesarily costs a lot of time, money and effort as a result, for all parties (the Conservatives suffer from media mis-representation also, though any leftist party will suffer more). State funding of all elected parties would seem to follow from this (probably).

  3. Blue Foxxx: Glad you like some of the ideas. As you admit, it's not a topic much discussed down the pubs (people yawn when I mention it).

    The Power Commission recommended 3 parliamentary terms for elected Lords (12-15 years).

    Fiona McTaggart MP mentioned the idea of 'vocational constituencies' at the last Labour Party Conference. Although I can't find any specific reference to it on the net.

    Voters and research would decide the occupational categories and then each voter would register in an occupational constituency. Each occupational constituency would elect a number of representatives set in proportion to their percentage of the electorate. Each candidate must be from that occupational category to stand in the appropriate constituency.

    The other half of the Lords would be selected in a national lottery. Those who wanted to enter the Lords would buy tickets and the draw would take place on live TV.

  4. vocational constituencies is the same mistake Ireland made; France and the EU have this error to a lesser extent with the EU's "Economic and Social Committee" and the French equivalent.

    The idea, also prominent in Mussolini and Mosley's thought, is a poor one. I think it derives from the Papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. Having Anglican bishops in the House of Lords is an example, frankly, of what not to imitate.

    Anyway, Neil, if it's a "Tory" house, why are the Tories the second largest party after ... Labour?

  5. What's this about Labour being the only party to reform the House of Lords? What party forced the Parliament Act through?

  6. Only this year after 9 years of rule have Labour overtaken the 'official' Conservatives in the Lords by a couple of seats. Labour are still however a minority and the crossbenchers are predominantly Tory as well.

    Anon: "What's this about Labour being the only party to reform the House of Lords? What party forced the Parliament Act through?"

    Labour in 1949. If you have to go back to 1911 to find some good liberals managed to do, you are scraping the barrel aren't you?