Abolish the House of Lords!

Submitted by martin on 12 March, 2007 - 11:00

50% elected? 60%? 80%? About the only thing more ridiculous than the old House of Lords is the bizarre complication of the schemes to replace it.

In fact there should be no Lords. No House of Lords at all. No second chamber.

No trade union would have two executive committees, one to "vet" the other. No workforce would choose to have two shop stewards' committees, one elected, and the second, stacked with elderly or appointed worthies, to restrain the first.

Second houses of parliament exist, historically, only as bulwarks against democracy - as guarantees to the ruling class that, even if the people can elect a majority responsive to their interests, there will be "older and wiser" voices to hold back that majority.

So low has bourgeois democracy fallen that probably many people in Britain today, of broadly democratic viewpoint, would regret the abolition of the House of Lords. It has, after all, acted as an occasional restraint on the Thatcher and Blair governments, especially over civil liberties.

To pay for that occasional restraint by the elevation to power of a selection of less frequently elected, or outright appointed, dignitaries is too high a price.

The House of Lords was never going to create any problems for Thatcher or Blair over anti-union laws, or over the destruction of the Health Service. It would for sure create problems for any radical, responsive, working-class-based majority in the Commons.

Sometimes, indeed, it is desirable to restrain elected majorities - Thatcher's or Blair's, for example. But the restraint should be from below and from within.

As Parliament operates at present, the government controls Parliament much more than Parliament controlling the government. By power of appointment to ministerial positions, by power of control over Parliament's agenda, and by power to set the frame by countless "administrative" decisions, many of them major, taken outside the purview of Parliament, the government controls.

Reforms reducing the government to an elected, accountable executive committee of parliament would dramatically reduce the ability of prime ministers like Thatcher and Blair to use an apparent "elected majority" to ride roughshod.

And, as the first British workers' movement, the Chartists, demanded over 150 years ago, there should be elections to Parliament every year. Each member should know that they will have to face their electors soon, and have to account for their actions rather than mostly letting time bury them.

The electorate should also have a right of recall over its representative: something it can have only if it has a cohesion and an identity as a collective body, something that can happen only if the electorate has its own accountable committee with large powers of self-government over the workplace or the community where the electorate is based.

It can happen only if democracy is also social and economic democracy, extending into the workplaces: in other words, if the government based on this democratic process is a workers' government.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.