Note: In an attempt to stop skewing the idea of the Technocracy Movement or the North American Technate plans, I am going to refer to my House of Lords reform as meritocratic as oppossed to technocratic.
When the news of the Higgs finding hit the media it was up to Libdem MP Julian Huppert as a former scientist to explain the field on a show called The Daily Politics (link here). It was nice to see science being enjoyed by the political class but it was a sharpe reminder of the severe lack of specific knowledge in the House of Commons. It was a shame to see him talk for the Lords Reform as it looks to decimate a lot of the expertise existing in Parliament.
House of Lords
As it stands the upper chamber contains 775 members consisting of appointed life peers and the last remaining hereditary peers (92) – these types are called Lords Temporal, it also contains 26 Bishops which are referred to as Lords Spiritual. The house itself acts as a proof reading for legislation but doesn’t hold definitive power over actioning bills.
For a start, the non-elected members are appointed after half a lifetime of doing excellent work in their field – they have not spent time and money winning votes and making promises. Another fantastic element is that it has people of real expertise being able to give valuable opinions on areas in their subject. This respect for knowledge and decrease in partisan politics is intrinsic to the true nature of the House of Lords (but still needs a lot of improvement).
The Libdem reforms propose to make the upper chamber much smaller and have it 80% elected and 20% appointed. The 80% will be elected by a different voting system, proportional representation, and will serve 15 year terms without chance of re-election. The idea is an ideological one of moving closer to true democracy – but that is exactly what it isn’t doing. 15 years is just too long for any sense of democratic accountability, if they are awful – you’re stuck with them for the long hall. Alongside this the one term per person means if they are good – you can’t keep them. Worst of both worlds.
Previously the Labour Party actioned some fantastic reforms to the House of Lords that got rid of hereditary peers (in the sense that they became life peers) and in increasing the presence of Crossbenchers (Publicly non-partisan Lords). These are the types of reform that work with the function of the upper chamber, not against it.
Alternative Reform – A Secular & Meritocratic House
Alastair Campbell spoke about an idea he had of a unicameral system (just the House of Commons) that takes advice from a sort of upper house existing in the EU, shared by all other European members. Now although this is radically different to my idea, it did speak to me, the idea of everyone taking the same advice without tribal investments is clearly a good thing – but alas, as regions differ so do social issues, making this a faulty idea.
My ideas are for a secular, fully appointed house of field specialists. The function of the house has always been to scrutinise legislation. The advice of a second meritocratic house does not in, any way, take away from the democracy of the system. I have writen about these ideas and stronger reforms in greater details in the following posts:
The meritocratic approach taken by Labour on Lords and the Conservatives on Education is clearly the only direction for a rational nation to move in. These need to continue and develop further.