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house of lords: allocate peerages like jury service

Comment 24th July 2010

The current system: http://lordsappointments.independent.gov.uk/

My repeal would not be to the system but to its workload, by trialling another system.

Allocate one jurer in a million a life peerage, or some variation on this theme:

  • the oldest child of one jurer in a million
     
  • the elected top 50% of a group of randomly chosen jurers, if 50% stand for life peerage in a mainly online and TV hustings system.
     
  • the system that arrises after a few trials of different ideas as above and popular comment. It could be that some of these new lords, like pools winners, wish they never had the chance to make fools of themselves and have suggestions for changing the system more.
     
  • hereditary peers who have been refused their former membership, and have below average income or have an unusual career, possibly with a change to old laws to make peerages unisex. This last idea is coming from a different direction but you get the gist of the first few.

Why does this matter?

  1. This system is more transparent.

    Donors to political parties may now be misled into believing donation increases their chance of peerage, which is unfair on them if untrue and diverts their money away from charitable causes.
     

  2. This system may re-balance the prestige of lords & commons, making the commons more accountable and the lords more attractive to applicants.

    Lords who do good barely-paid work of the sort MPs ought to be doing get seen as something out of Brideshead Revisited, which is unfair on them and may reduce their volunteering. It also reduces the status of the House of Lords in challenging the commons. The detailed work that is done allows MPs to go on pretending they are "local MPs" and getting involved in things like local planning permission disputes instead of earning their salaries, looking at laws, breaking with their party whip. The failure of the lords to ridicule the commons is bad for MP scrutiny I think.
     

  3. This system restors the random element of people who have not conformed to a successfull career pattern for decades, are not used to seeing organisations from the centre or the top, and are probably not specially wealthy.

    Those with the time and inclination to go and make speeches about obscure bils are often the wealthy retired and loyal public servants, ex ministers, former chairs of nationalised industries and quangos – the people who Diane Abbot called "a metropolitan elite", and who's life experience and acceptance of public sector norms seem on the surface to lack variety. There are certainly fewer sacked ambassedors, defrocked priests ex prisoners and than under a hereditory or jury system.
     

  4. The extra legislation and civil service time needed would be small, as the life peers act 1958 is already very short & general, while the system for appointing jurers already exists.
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