The House of Lords needs ‘total reform’ according to the person writing Corbyn’s constitutional policy

House of Lords
Chris Jarvis

The House of Lords has long been a feature of British politics. But the person responsible for developing Labour’s constitutional policy has called for it to be scrapped.

‘Total reform’

At the Scottish Labour Party conference, Pauline Bryan launched a paper on what the UK’s political structure could look like in the future. Bryan is in charge of developing Labour’s policy on constitutional affairs.

The paper, seen by The Canary, contains proposals which would see the House of Lords scrapped. Bryan suggests replacing the unelected house with a “Chamber of the Nations and Regions which is elected and accountable”.

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Bryan also argues for a rebalancing of power between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster. She suggests that the “relationship between Holyrood and Westminster should be based on partnership and not hierarchy”.

Positive development

Bryan’s proposals are a welcome development in Labour’s evolving policies around democratic reform. Labour’s 2017 election manifesto pledged to make some reforms to the House of Lords. But it stopped short of committing to abolishing the unelected house altogether. So Bryan’s intervention makes it more likely that the Labour Party will commit to that in the future.

Campaigners for democratic reform have welcomed the proposals too. In a press release, director of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland Willie Sullivan said:

As this briefing points out, the primary way to reform the bloated, unelected House of Lords is to replace it with a fairly-elected revising chamber, with a clearly defined remit and which can speak up for the nations and regions of the whole UK. Voters are tired of seeing scandal after scandal in the Lords with no way of kicking them out. A much-smaller, more effective second chamber would help draw to a close the era of unaccountable power and bring our democracy into the 21st century.

Growing calls to scrap the House of Lords

The launch of Bryan’s paper is significant. It comes at a time when calls for the abolition of the House of Lords are growing. Earlier this year, the trade union campaign for political reform Politics for the Many revealed its efforts to see the unelected body scrapped. Its coordinator Nancy Platts also welcomed Bryan’s proposals. She said:

This is a fundamental step [forward] in developing Labour’s thinking on constitutional reform. Labour must now adopt these proposals as the starting point to ensuring that our politics works for the many, not an unelected few.

And on 5 March, Green Party peer Jenny Jones proposed legislation to the House of Lords which would seek to have it scrapped. Writing on her proposals, Jones said:

If there is a lesson to learn from Brexit, it is that people are fed up of the status quo in politics and feel that no one represents them. We cannot even begin to heal the divides in Britain while there are unelected people making decisions about the future of our country, some of whom are only in the House because they [inherited their] political position from their fathers.

The House of Lords is an outdated part of our political system. It undermines core principles of democracy. But with more and more people calling for it to go, we could see the end of it soon.

Featured image via Flickr – David Holt

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