Not the most compelling of arguments…

There were some excellent speeches in the Commons on Monday and Tuesday in the debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill.  There were also some that left one wondering why the person had bothered to speak.  One of the least compelling was by Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.  Among the claims made in the speech were:

“As others have pointed out, many important sectors of our society remain under-represented. I am thinking about those from the fields of education and policing, and the lack of people from working-class backgrounds. Diversity is not a quality we could honestly attribute to the other place; it is not great here, but it is improving. Only 22% of the peers are women, ethnic minority representation remains low and the average age in the other place is 68.”

Hmm, this is offered as an argument for electing the second chamber.  Only 22% of the members are women.  And what is the proportion of women in the House of Commons?  Er, 22%.  The proportion of ethnic minority members?  Significantly higher in the Lords than in the Commons.  Apart from the age profile, virtually all the claims are suspect.  There are more peers than MPs who have been senior police officers (and, indeed, one peer who is a serving officer) and we have members who not only have been but are in the education sector.  When we had an extensive debate on higher education, every peer bar one had an interest to declare.

The one point that clearly appears to be overlooked is that appointment is actually an efficient means of ensuring a more diverse membership and more effective than the current methods by which candidates for the House of Commons are selected.  The Independent Appointments Commission appears to be close to achieving gender equality in its nominations for example.  I am not sure the parties in their selection of candidates for the Commons have yet achieved that….

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to Not the most compelling of arguments…

  1. maudie33 says:

    Lord Norton, you have made the case for public election of the Lords in your above last paragraph. The reason there is less ‘diversity’ as you all like to call it, in the Commons, is because the candidates are elected by the people of this nation and not on the grounds of ridiculous politically correct notions of madness. An unsuitable person does not become suitable for reason of what lies between their legs, or, how much pigment they have in their skin, or, whose issue they may be. That is utterly absurd.

    I repeat, no person deserves to represent the country politically on the grounds of, gender, race, sexual persuasion, family connections or any other reason than the public found them a good representive for their political desires.

    Parliament has lost reason in respect of their position. They are in that place as a conduit of the nations political requirements, not to impose on the people the whims and fashionable experiments of the chattering classes. Our nation is not a test tube of fun for those who are generally untouched by the policies they impose on us ‘little people.’

    And this is why the Lords have lost their way and must now face election by the people of this nation, not by a closet full of their cronies.

    • Lord Norton says:

      maudie33: It does not make the case for election at all. There is not a contradiction between appointing on merit, but taking into account the backgrounds from which people are drawn.

  2. maudie33 says:

    You are missing the point, Lord Norton, appointing on merit (who decides what the merit is) by those not of public consent, is insider dealing. That is not democracy. That is cronyism.

    We are trying to bring democracy to the UK in real terms. To suggest those looking for candidates to suit an ideology, rather than what voters want is going around in circles. Is it not possible for you to see that parliament have already set up, by appointment, peope who the public find inadequate as their agents. And you are calling for the same method to continue, against the wishes of the electorate. That is no way towards setting up a democratic system.

    It is not up to officials who have placed themselves in positions of power, without having been elected, to apoint other people to work on ‘our’ behalf whom we may see as as unsuitable for our cause. Meaning the cause of the British people as citizens of a democracy. Regardless of what merit you may consider your selection has, we must be the arbiters..

    Ability is a sensible criteria and must be applied in the same way as blind justice. Diversity is not merit. In fact, it is an insult to those selected as it implies unworthiness or inability.. That can never be accepted as democratic. Cannot be, as it goes against the very nature of the institution.

    • Lord Norton says:

      maudie33: It really would help if you defined your terms. You seem to proceed on the basis that everyone must share your definition of democracy. It is a contested concept. It is compatible with democracy (in terms of how people choose to govern themselves) to have a second chamber in a form which we have and where there is acceptance that the people appointed to it are the most appropriate to fulfilling the tasks ascribed to it. The extensive Ipsos MORI poll carried out in 2007 found that respondents ranked having an appointments process that enjoyed popular trust as being more important than introducing elected members. Or are you going to impose your democracy in preference to what the majority prefer?

    • ladytizzy says:

      Maude, adding to the number of elections will not add power to the voter, unless the voter is as rich as Croesus and/or already powerful. Perhaps it might be more fruitful to examine how those such as Jack Dromey managed to become an MP before deciding that only the HoL is in need of reform.

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