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House of Lords Reform: Do we do away with the buffoons?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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Walter Bagehot once wrote “The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it,” This week the debate over whether the House of Lords should be reformed is boiling up once again.  Until recently most articles appearing in the press have tended to side with keeping the House of Lords as is, and highlighting the merits of its cantankerous but independent minded ‘appointed’ Life Peers.  However, a wider range of views are now being canvassed in the press.  Here is a quick survey of articles reflected roughly the different positions:

In favour of an elected upper house:
1. In the Guardian Andrew Adonis puts forward a strong case for reform in an article:Reform the House of Lords now and it can survive. He argues:

The second chamber is costly and unrepresentative. Only radical change will head off the abolitionists

2. And, a bit earlier in the Observer there was an article Lords reform: Will nobody finally rid us of these bumptious buffoons? It asserts:

As bishops remain in the upper house, hopes of any substantial change in this antiquated chamber are dying fast

3. Steve Richards in the Independent has The Lords is undemocratic and increasingly silly, and argues:

Clegg is right to push on. Nearly all opposition is on Machiavellian grounds rather than principle

In favour of the status quo [i.e. an appointed upper house]:
3. Philip Blonde [a.k.a The Red Tory] has an article in the Independent: Electing the Lords would undermine its value.  Its thrust is:

It would be the greatest extension of executive power since Charles I dissolved Parliament

And finally the are those who advocate the complete abolition of the House of Lords:
Here cue Polly Toynbee in her Guardian article: Lords buffoonery has to end. So why not abolish them? in which she asserts:

Reform opens deeper questions about where power should lie than this cabinet looks willing or capable of confronting

An interesting blog post from James Cleverly AM: Elected House of Lords, what would we lose? has a list of some of the cross benchers and their expertise which would be lost if they were replaced by elected peers.  Some include:

Psychiatric social worker and chairman of the Harold Shipman inquiry and the Baby P inquiry
Former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police
Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford, former chair of the Food Standards Agency
Former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service
Former Permanent Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service
Former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
Former Chief of the Defence Staff
Human rights lawyer and former Chair of Oxfam
Professor of Surgical Sciences at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University
Professor of the psychiatry of learning disability at St George’s, University of London, former president of the Royal Society of Psychiatrists
Professor of Law at Queen Mary College, University of London

Not your ordinary buffoons!


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