Time is up for the Lords

It might be a delicious irony to find that bastion of constitutional conservatism, the House of Lords, voting down Conservative welfare cuts but it is intolerable just the same. Lordly Lib-Lab excuses will not wash; it is a money bill and it has been carried by the Commons. The comic mixture of peers and political appointees that makes up the most absurd legislative chamber in the world has no business overturning it. Labour should be the last people on earth to play that game. The Labour Party should now pledge its support for a Conservative motion in the Commons to override the ‘upper’ chamber. Indeed, since the Lords has stepped outside the constitutional framework established by the 1911 Parliament Act the Common is surely entitled to dismiss them.

Whatever happens next in the constitutional pantomime that the Lords have opened, the show must close with its abolition. The second chamber in every constitution is defended as a revising chamber, giving an opportunity for second thoughts. In fact it is everywhere a conservative brake on radical and reforming democracy, its purpose to frustrate the popular will set out with admirable clarity by the architects of the American constitution a very long time ago.

Whatever the arguments for a second chamber there are none for the Lords. It really does make a mockery of every democratic principle and has only survived while it served conservative and Conservative Party purposes. It was easier to let it stumble on through the 20thC than think what to do instead. Now it should be abolished immediately; let the debate then continue about what might replace it. Its abolition should add some urgency.

A single chamber that was itself reformed to curtail Prime Ministerial power and strengthen ordinary MPs, perhaps through a more developed committee system, could hold the executive to account a lot more effectively than the ermine-clad leftovers on the red benches.

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