Friday, 7 March 2008

on House of Lords reform

When faced with this question in my AS level Government and Politics class some 4 years ago my suggestion was highly idealist, reflecting my naïve nature at the time (in 4 years time I’m sure I’ll look back and call myself naïve now). Why not create a chamber the composition of which is based on equal divisions based on the categories of the last census? The chamber would be split by gender then by age, race, religion and possibly region. Now I am not a fan of positive discrimination as I believe it undermines the fundamental idea of a meritocracy. However, given that the upper chamber scrutinises based on independent expertise, why not give ordinary people a chance to take part in this 21st century Senate? One of the criticisms levelled at my scheme was that it expects people to behave in a pre-defined way just because of who they are. Clearly problems would exist, I don’t dispute this (and I welcome all comments) how would it be policed? Who would decide on appointments? How can you prove that someone is a Christian? Just because you are female doesn’t mean that you are interested in advancing women’s issues, similarly just because you are 70 doesn’t mean that you are interested in maximising the state pension payout.

But this is precisely the point of the scheme, women exist who are not interested in women’s issues and 70 year olds exist who have a nice level of savings and do not rely on the state pension, why should they not be represented? By creating a second chamber that is so blatant in its positive discrimination, you create a system that is somewhat representative, and by far more representative that the current House of Lords.

Given my own internal conflict on appointing or electing the House of Lords, I shall return to this topic in the future.

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