Electing the House of Lords

Following the recent vote in the House of Commons, that the House of Lords be 100% elected, Nick Barlow has proposed that they be elected by STV. He notes that one proposal is that lords be elected at the same time as the European election, with a third of the lords being elected each time, thus each lord on election would serve for a term of 15 years. Consequently, if there are to be 300 elected lords, then 100 will be elected at each election. Since the election of the lords would happen at the same time as the European election, it make sense to use the same electoral regions for both elections.

Barlow also proposes that smaller electoral regions should be allocated more representatives than they would from strict proportionality, in order to ensure “a balance of voices from throughout the UK”.

I agree with this; however, how a representative thinks and votes is far more important than what part of the country they come from. So if we want diversity, we should make diversity of views more important than diversity of regions. I therefore propose that lords be elected by a modified version of STV, as follows:

1. 90% of representatives to be elected by STV. (In this case 90 representatives)

2. the other 10% of representatives to be elected by top-up.

3. each candidate would belong to an electoral list. Typically all the candidates of a party would belong to the same electoral list, but there would be nothing to prevent one party running multiple lists, or several parties running a joint list. If a candidate isn’t on an electoral list, they are deemed to be on a list containing just themselves.

4. The 90 STV representatives are elected according to the normal rules for STV.

5. The number of top-up seats for each electoral list is determined. This is done by counting how many 1st-preference votes each list got and how many representatives they got elected by STV. The top-up seats are allocated according to the D’Hondt method so that the total number of seats each list gets (both STV and top-up) is proportional to that list’s 1st-preference votes.

6. Once we know how many top-up seats each list gets, we can determine with candidates are elected by top-up. These are the candidates for that list with the highest number of first-preference votes who were not elected by STV.

This electoral system combines the benefits of STV (representatives have a local link and are chosen by the voters, not the party hierarchy) with those of a national list system (maximum proportionality), and would ensure that any belief-system that commands the support of 1% of the electorate would get represented in the Lords. Because of the diversity of viewpoints elected, this would minimise the feeling of disenfranchisement that voters get if no-one they support is elected.

  1. jim jay said:

    The thing I worry about is this 15 year thing. That would mean we would only now be getting rid of the 1992 representatives… in the mean time Portillo was an arch thatcherite – kicked out – gone fluffy – got back in and gone out again.

    I think people, even politicians, change too much over 15 years so without being able to recall them if they go mad, or fascist, or get a bee in their bonnet about nudists we’re still stuck with them. Plus the people’s desire can change radically in that time too.

    I think the 15 year proposal is about providing a conservative block and, as it happens, is the sort of thing dictators tend to propose… not that we live under a dictatorship of course.

    Every five years at the same time as the Euros with some kind of PR is what I’d like to see. If the Lords allow.

  2. jim jay: “The thing I worry about is this 15 year thing.”

    The queen’s been around for more than 15 years. And life peers are for life. So I don’t think the 15 year thing is necessarily that big a problem. There’s something to be said for continuity. And if lords aren’t facing re-election for a long time, maybe they would be more likely to vote according to their consciounses rather than according to the party line.

  3. Jono said:

    Why not also make it strictly one term and you must wait at least 7 years between being a Member of the Commons and a Senator (calling them Lords if elected is silly), or vice versa. With those restrictions, free voting should be the norm.

  4. Jono: “Why not also make it strictly one term and you must wait at least 7 years between being a Member of the Commons and a Senator”

    Not a bad idea

    “(calling them Lords if elected is silly)”

    I don’t see why. There have been elected kings and emperors, historically. And Roman senators weren’t elected.

  5. The important aspect is not how we elect them or for how long but a clear independence from political party interference and the power they have to stand against the administration

  6. Ken,

    yes, but how they’re elected and for how long has a big effect on how independent from the parties they will be.

  7. jim jay said:

    I’m not sure what they are called is such a big deal although calling them lords if elected does seem odd to me – mind you senators seems strange too…

  8. G. Tingey said:

    The thing that bothers me is that all of these people will be PARTY POLITICIANS.

    None of them will be scientists or writers or artists or anything worthwhile, really ……

  9. G. Tingey: “The thing that bothers me is that all of these people will be PARTY POLITICIANS. None of them will be scientists or writers or artists or anything worthwhile, really”

    Only if that’s who people vote for

  10. I have to take issue with that response, Phil. Most people with a fulltime job outside politics or a family to support simply aren’t in a position to run for election without the support of a party. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process. Perhaps it won’t be exclusively party politicians, but I’m not sure adding a new bunch of idle rich people into the mix will necessarily make things much better.

  11. Jim,

    that’s likely to be an effect in any system that elects people. So what system would you have instead? Choosing people at random from the electoral roll?

  12. That was just my point, Phil. Almost any way you structure representative democracy on a large scale will ultimately tend towards professional politicians and a party system. It’s very close to being an inevitability.

    Don’t get me wrong, independent candidates can — and do — have an impact from time to time, but they’ll always be greatly overshadowed by those who choose to pool their resources.

    I wasn’t suggesting that I had an alternative way of electing the Lords that would get around this problem. Merely that stating “Only if that’s who people vote for” is pretty much guaranteed not to get around it.

    In truth though I’m the last person you want to be discussing this with. I find the whole notion of representative democracy faintly ridiculous and would replace it entirely if it were up to me. However that would take this thread waaay off topic. So perhaps another time…

  13. Wolfie said:

    I liked it just the way it was.

    We already have an elected chamber, why ever do we need another?

    I find this quite depressing.

  14. Mark Green said:

    Everyone seems to be forgetting the important thing – the Parliament Act. If we are to have an elected Lords then the Parliament Act has to go otherwise we’ll just have the ridicualous situation of one set of elected representatives being overruled by another.

  15. Katherine said:

    Mark, making the Lords elected should of course come along with a much larger constitutional settlement, including things like the balance of power between the Commons and the Lords. The trouble with the current piecemeal “reforms” is that no one is looking at the bigger picture.