Sunday, 16 January 2011

Legitimacy Of Appointments Manifested In Glasman

Keir couldn't help but notice the collective gush from those in attendance at the Fabian Conference after hearing Maurice Glasman speak about the future of the party. That gushing continued after the newly ennobled academic was the feature of an article in The Observer today.

From what Keir knows of Glasman, he seems to be a very knowledgeable guy. He has worked closely with Community Organisers in the UK and has been very influential within the Labour Party to try and guide the organisational culture towards a more relational, more mutualistic and more action-fuelled model. His influence could be felt in Ed Miliband's speech at the same Fabian Conference he attended, just as it could in the famous Gordon Brown speech of May 3rd.

A man with considerable expertise, wisdom and knowledge, now appointed to our second chamber to help scrutinise the conduct of Government. Many people would agree with Keir, it seems, that he is an excellent addition to the House of Lords.

So, Keir couldn't help but wonder how many of those people, so complimentary of Glasman and his appointment to the House, would also back proposals to make the House an elected chamber.

You only need to read the Guardian article to realise that people like Glasman are acutely able to perform the duties of peerage. They are thinkers, they are quiet and they work in the shadows. They are also highly unlikely to run for election.

Now, Keir is a democrat. But modern democracy is about more than merely giving people a vote on everything. The House of Lords is meant to scrutinise Government, delay and amend legislation and, on occasion, throw policies out. It is also to remain, always, in the shadow of the primacy of the Commons. If we are to elect both Houses, this primacy will be gone. In the 2001 General Election, turnout was below 60%. A Commons, elected by just 60% of the people, scrutinised by a Lords elected by the same amount? Keir doesn't fancy that.

Furthermore, some proposals suggest Lords elections at different times to Commons elections. Frankly, that's crazy. What if the election for the Commons gets a 60% turnout and the Lords election gets a 75% turnout? Could the Lords lay claim to being more democratically legitimate? Probably. And if this happened, our Parliament would be finished as we know it.

As honourable as many MPs are, we know that politics has become a career these days. That is absolutely fine. Being an MP is a difficult job and the professionalisation of Members of Parliament is, in Keir's opinion, a good thing. But the House of Lords contains people with explicit expertise, abilities and knowledge. They are not careerists; they are selected by our elected representatives (elected representatives who we entrust with the power to govern) to help to scrutinise them. They are from all trades, professions, religions, businesses, cultural institutions, sporting institutions and many other areas of society.

We have 650 elected Members of Parliament in Westminster, 60 Welsh Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay, 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood and 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland. Add to that some 22,000 elected Councillors throughout the United Kingdom. We have a flourishing democracy in terms of voting. Let us not spoil the functional aspect of our democracy with the lazy symbolism of creating a wholly-elected second chamber.

There's even more to the argument, but everyone hates a lengthy blog post.

Don't misunderstand; the House of Lords needs reforming. There are too many peers and there are too many unjust peerages dished out. Life peerages are questionable and there needs to be more faith leaders than just Christian leaders. But if we want people with the considerable talent of the likes of Lord Glasman, another elected House is not the way to go.


LetUsFaceTheFuture.

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