Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The End of the Peer Show

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 11th August, 2011

It’s a hundred years since the British government last tried seriously to overhaul radically the House of Lords, the Upper House of the UK Parliament. And the 2011 White Paper put forward by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government would indeed be a radical overhaul: reducing the number of members to 300, 80% or even 100% of whom would be elected by a method of proportional representation (preferably STV), for a single term of 15 years, there being elections in thirds every five years, presumably at the same time as general elections for the House of Commons, asuming the government’s policy of fixed-term parliaments sticks. All very clear, then. Or not. As a timely, slim but perplexing new publication from the Constitution Centre and (the Liberal thinktank) Centre Forum, The End of the Peer Show (ed. Alexandra Fitzpatrick, £10), makes clear, there are 101 different ways of viewing the government’s Lords Reforms proposals. There is by no means a consensus in either House of Parliament, let alone amongst the bemused public (for whom constitutional reform is anyway not a high priority). Graham Allen MP makes a brave attempt to justify the new proposals, but most of the other contributors to the book pick giant holes in them, whether it is criticising the suggestion that 12 Anglican bishops should retain their seats, all the way to the Crossbench Convenor, Frances D’Douza, who thinks we should stick with what we have got, i.e. 100% non-elected. I fear that that is what indeed will happen, at least for the foreseeable future, as the likelihood of the Government getting sufficient support to push its reform package through before 2015 is, I fear, close to nil.

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