I do despair of commentators who keep writing as if election of the second chamber is so obviously ‘democratic’ or esssential in a modern democracy, oblivious of the fact they are displaying an ignorance of the issue and certainly of the recent debate. I have already drawn attention to one example. Another appeared in last night’s edition of the Evening Standard.
In reviewing Peter Hennessy’s latest book, Distilling the Frenzy – in which Lord Hennessy argues against an elected House – Robert Fox writes that ‘In an era of of low polls, democratic deficits and regional tensions, it’s hard to argue for an unelected Upper House’. As readers will know, it is no such thing. There’s a perfectly rational, and indeed a democratic, case for assymetrical bicameralism of the sort we have. One wonders if the writer has even bothered to think about what he is writing. There are low polls. Solution? Introduce more elections. Arguing the case for an elected chamber is something of a displacement activity. It is the easy option, distracting from the real challenge of trying to identify and address why many people don’t vote in existing elections. People who unthinkingly argue for an elected chamber are not offering a solution; they are part of the problem.