A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 23, 2006

No, no, no, no

Personally I am not "hailing" Jack Straw's proposals for House of Lords reform.

A 50% elected House is still 50% undemocratic.

A 12 year term limit is undemocratic - it stops voters deciding how long they want politicians to stay in office.

Elections by PR - good.

Reduction in size to 450 - good.

But why can't we have a Parliament that every single member of was elected to? It's not a difficult concept to understand - it's called democracy - rule by the people.

Straw says - allegedly - that a wholly elected chamber would "become more political". How much more political can you get than passing the legislation that decides the way the country is governed?

Please, having ended the mediaeval farce of hereditary peers, can we end the presence of people hand picked by Prime Ministers, and while we're at it, of CofE Bishops? If they want to be in Parliament passing the laws we all live under all these people should have to go out and get themselves elected by their fellow citizens.

Straw also apparently wants "a minimum age for membership ... set". Just the way not to reconnect young people with the political process.


Blogger El Dave. said...

Why can't we scrap the second chamber, introduce PR (even if that does threaten my Labour party membership), have a 10% of the single chamber referendum trigger and beef up the committees by removing the whips' selection powers and giving them powers of sub poena. Where expert advice is needed, people could be coopted as non-voters. Proper funding would help (McCain has a staff of around sixty; when he was chair of the commerce committee, he had another forty).

4:18 pm, October 23, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

We shouldn't scrap the second chamber because checks & balances are a good idea and however perfect an electoral system no one chamber can ever be 100% representative of all the different interests in society.

PS in what sense does PR threaten your membership?

4:36 pm, October 23, 2006

Blogger El Dave. said...

I'm really not sure about that. No-one has come up with a satisfactory measure of quality of legislation. I would suggest that taking more time over legislation and running it through a more extensive committee process and giving legislation more time to sit at each stage so that stakeholders can look at it and raise objections or suggestions would be beneficial. As you'll know, the Danish referendum provision (whereby 10% of the deputies to the single chamber can trigger a referendum on a bill) has never been used; it effectively allows people to make the govt of the day go back over a piece of legislation to make sure it does what's intended.

Certainly, no system can be perfect, but if you were to sit down and draw up a constitution for the UK today ab initio, I don't think it'd feature a second chamber. I'd add that the US constitution's intimiations of immortality are rather dubious.

Moreover, I'd prefer power to be devolved downwards. That is a more effective set of checks and balances. Equally, if bicameralism is valid for Parliament, why not for Scotland, Wales, the GLA or local authorities?

I would add that some legislation at the moment is appallingly drafted - viz. the mental health bill.

The PR threatening my membership was a rubbish joke. I'd like PR, which presumably means some Labour MPs would lose their seats.

10:11 am, October 24, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Local authorities and the GLA effectively are tricameral - the Mayor or Leader and Cabinet makes an initial decision, the Scrutiny side of the body can then call this in and knock it back for reconsideration, whilst certain major decisions like the budget are reserved to the full council.

I think it is arguable whether PR would lead to Labour losing seats as we don't know how people will vote next time or whether a different electoral system would change the way people voted. And it depends what type of PR you mean.

10:17 am, October 24, 2006

Blogger El Dave. said...

I disagree. Although they have separate functions, they are no more separate chambers than the ministers, select committee members and other backbenchers are. You can have different roles within the same body. Legislation is suggested by the executive, passes through a committee (or can be debated in a Committee of the Whole House) while there's a vote on legislation.

There is also the institutional separation between the chambers, although I freely admit to having read about it in a book and never having been a councillor.

2:21 pm, October 24, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bang on Luke- though I may be tempted to require some experience in electoral politics instead of an age requirement.

What do you reckon on voting systems? i like AV+ the best.

5:10 pm, October 24, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I would support AV+ if we talking about the commons, but for a 2nd chamber you don't want a 2nd set of constituency MPs so I would look at STV.

8:09 pm, October 24, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, a good point. I think it would be good to have mixed election procedure though so the lords cannot claim supremacy on the basis of proportionality...

btw, check this out:http://trotskyist.blogspot.com/2006/10/akehurst-on-prowl-icepick-in-hand.html

You're famous!

7:45 pm, October 25, 2006

Anonymous Leftrightleftright said...

Tom, Luke - by AV+ do you mean AMS?

10:54 am, October 26, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

AV+ is AMS but with Alternative Vote, not FPTP, in the constituencies. This means all the constituency MPs have support of more than 50% of their voters, and as the constituency section would probably be a bit more proportional should mean you can have say 80% constituency and 20% top up list MPs rather than 50-50 as in Germany. It was the recommendation of the Jenkins Commission.

2:33 pm, October 26, 2006


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