I am not a fan of the House of Lords in its current form. My main objection is because it is an unelected body that has real power.
Up until fairly recently, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but over the past few months I have been doing so. This was started when I had a conversation with a member of the House of Lords, and I was appalled at his level of ignorance. As the House of Lords has debated equal marriage my opposition to the House has grown, entirely due to the nastiness of some of its members.
I’m sure that the House of Commons has just as many unpleasant members, but there is a fundamental difference between the two houses: if I really don’t like someone in the Commons, I can work against him or her getting re-elected. In extreme circumstances I could even stand against them. If they get re-elected, then that is democracy in action. The electorate has chosen someone I really don’t like. This happens all the time, and it is a good thing, and a fundamental part of democracy.
But if I don’t like someone in the House of Lords, what can I do? I can sit around doing nothing while they use their prejudices to create law, or I can protest. They might listen. They might not. They don’t have to. I can’t support a campaign that would lead to someone else getting their seat, and I can’t decide to stand for the Lords myself.
An elected upper house could end up with just as many, if not more unpleasant members than the unelected version. The important thing is we, the people who make up the United Kingdom, could act to remove them if that is what we chose, or we could act to add more unpleasant members to, if that is what we chose.
I am a Liberal Democrat. In the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, the party said it would “replace the House of Lords with a fully elected second chamber” (p 88). I fully agree with this stance.