Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House of Lords reform

The House of Lords of votes on reform this afternoon will not surprise anyone. There will be a massive majority for an all appointed house. I don't expect a hybrid house to attract much support, but it will be interesting to see how much the 100% and 80% elected options receive.

A fully elected house would, I think, have attracted more support if the Commons had been prepared to demonstrate that such a house could be more effective in challenging the executive, and more independent of party control. There is no reason why it should not be -- though this would imply some diminution, perhaps temporary, in the power of the Commons. I think that a powerful House of Lords whould be a strong challenge to the executive, and if we get the terms of election right should produce a spirit of independence too. I shall vote for 100% and 80% in the belief (well, perhaps not belief, more like a speculation) that that is what my colleagues in the Commons meant when they voted for those options, and that all the puff about the eternal supremacy of the Commons comes second, in their minds, to a more effective legislature as a whole.

Beyond the self-satisfaction and self-justification, what the vote for an all appointed house means is a challenge to the Commons: prove to us that your elected house will be more effective than we are at holding the executive to account, and will be at least as independent of party control. If the Commons can rise to these challenges, then how could we (in the end) resist?