Elect the Lords
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Elect The Lords is a campaign established in September 2004 by the New Politics Network - a successor group to the Democratic Left - and Charter88 calling for the United Kingdom House of Lords to be replaced by a predominantly elected upper house. The campaign was established following Charter88 and the Network's decision to establish a partnership agreement called the Democracy Project designed to kick start a number of democratic reform initiatives in the UK.
House of Lords reform was chosen as a key issue following a controversial vote in Parliament in 2003 when 5 options for reforming the Lords were proposed and all of them were voted down. The least unpopular option however was for an 80% elected / 20% appointed chamber, which fell by three votes in the House of Commons. The least popular option was for a wholly appointed House. Despite this, the government went on to pursue the fully appointed option, moving to remove the remaining hereditary peers from the House of Lords in 2004. This option was strongly opposed in Parliament.
Singer-songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg went on to receive significant attention for his secondary mandate system, in which members of the House of Lords would be appointed from party lists in proportion to the number of votes cast for each political party in elections to the House of Commons. This proposal appears to have found favour among a number of government ministers including Peter Hain and Lord Falconer of Thoroton (though Mr Hain later switched to supporting a system of direct election independent of the choice of the Commons). A secondary mandate has not enjoyed any support outside of the Labour Party and is opposed by many democratic reformers as it would exclude independent candidates and severely disadvantage smaller parties. On 21 February 2005, at the launch of the cross-party sponsored Second Chamber of Parliament Bill, Tony Wright (Labour MP for Cannock Chase) described such a system as "dangerous and mad".
Some people favour the idea of an entirely elected Second Chamber, but opponents, such as Betty Boothroyd, say that such a chamber would simply duplicate the Commons and become entirely politicised, losing the independence and specialist knowledge that non-political appointed members could provide. It is often seen that an elected H of L would reduce the quality of debate and reduce the strength of the 'fact check' chamber. It is argued that if they were elected, members would also become less insulated to the pressures of public opinion, and more likely vote in a manner which would appease their voters rather than on the facts of the issues at hand. If members were chosen by their own party rather than elected by the public, then, opponents argue, the pressure to vote in a particular manner would simply come from that party rather than the public, risking the independence of the Lords from the Commons.
The Elect the Lords campaign has received strong support from a wide variety of organisations. The Liberal Democrats and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland thanked the campaign for supporting one of their long-term aims, while progressive think tanks Compass, Electoral Reform Society and Progress have lent their support to the campaign, saying it will help Britain "throw off its outdated traditions". Various far left parties and groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Labour the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and Republic support Elect the Lords as they believe an elected upper chamber to be next step towards the establishment of a British Socialist Republic.[?! - Completely unverified: please cite references] The British National Party also supports the aims of the campaign as they believe it will make it easier for them and similar parties to win representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The campaign has also received favourable coverage on the Iranian government TV channel Press TV, as well as on Voice of Russia.
The following organisations are supporters of the Elect the Lords Campaign:
- Active Citizens Transform
- Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
- Communist League
- Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
- Communist Party of Scotland
- Electoral Reform Society
- English Democrats Party
- England First Party
- Liberal Democrats
- Liberal Future
- Morning Star
- Muslims Against Crusades
- National Front
- New Communist Party of Britain
- New Politics Network
- Press TV
- Socialist Labour
- Socialist Party of England and Wales
- Socialist Workers Party