What to do with the House of Lords?
Casually surfing around the blogsphere a post about the future of the House of Lords caught my eye. This one came on Left Futures and it suggested a compromise position on voting reform idea, having First Past the Post for the Commons and Proportional Representation for the Lords, newly constituted as a fully- elected scrutinising chamber. Fine idea in theory, but a totally dreadful one in practice. As the first commenter points out, such an arrangement without a written constitution which carefully codified roles and necessary checks and balances would be a constitutional crisis waiting to happen because both Houses would be fully elected but under different systems. Therefore both would be able to claim at least equal legitimacy and, of course, in a crisis would try to claim primacy.
So, as a singular demand its a bad idea. Coupled with a demand for a fully codified constitution which also reforms the Commons by abolishing, for example, Royal Prerogative powers it makes more sense and is more palatable. Having said that, I am a little suspicious of having more than one chamber; again its something that probably sounds nice in theory but in practice I feel it tends to work against democracy and the left.
The reason the left has called for the House of Lords abolition is its place within the constitutional monarchy state formation – not only does it enshrine the power of the monarchy, the Commons Executive (whichever hue that happens to be), and the Church (and thus is a bulwark against full secularisation of the state). A fully-elected House of Lords would no longer be the House of Lords as its understood now because, for example, there would be no automatic seats for Bishops.
However, the real problem with Lords Reform as a singular demand is that it fails to address the wider issue which is the whole form the constitutional monarchy state takes and the huge democratic deficits therein. Lords Reform could, at some stage, upset the whole apple cart by hook or crook because of its central place in that state but in doing so will pose more questions than calling for Lords reform answers. Demanding Lords reform is all well and good but it needs to be part of a much broader package of reforms that totally overturn the whole constitutional monarchy state apparatus or else it will do nothing to address the gaping democratic deficit in this country.