House of Lords – Time to Go

Never mind what those who would like to see the Monarchy abolished and the United Kingdom become a Republic – stand fast the Scottish Nationalist who want Independence for Scotland – but why do we persist with an unelected second chamber of Government.

Perhaps as important is why do we persevere with a bicameral system at all and not just go to a one chamber system of Government?

Is it such a ridiculous idea?

Our current system of having an elected first past the post Lower House and having an unelected Upper House if nothing else has proved over the years that a House of Commons with a single party having a large majority almost always leads to an abuse of power by the Government.

The question is why an earth is anyone surprised that people are taken for granted and the opposition ignored by a large majority Governing Party.

So two things we could do – and in my opinion should do – is to abolish the unelected upper chamber altogether and change the electoral system to a “Mixed Member Proportional” representation model (MMP).

I can hear the outcry of hostility already from those parliamentarians who not only will see their safe seats, loss of income and very generous expenses disappear but also the opportunity of being rewarded by a seat in the House of Lords and access to the “bottomless trough”

Of course their reasoning will be along the lines of,

“What about centuries of tradition”

“It wouldn’t work” etc etc

Well why wouldn’t it?

If you look at two recent General Elections in Countries which could not be more diverse, namely Germany and New Zealand – neither of which returned a majority party – nevertheless they have managed to form a Government.

And yes I accept that the Uk has had a coalition in two out of three of the most recent General Elections but what a mess the Westminster parliamentarians have made of both because whilst they are or have been in coalition they still continue to act as if they aren’t.

What it demonstrates is that for all of the centuries of democratic history surrounding UK politics it still has a very long way from being and acting in a mature grown up way when confronted with the problem of how to get over a single party not having an overall majority.

Germany for many years in the period since 1945 have grown up with and accepted that coalition working is a necessity to delivering growth and prosperity to the nation.

And let’s be honest about it even with the challenges of reunification they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

New Zealand on the other hand took a very deliberate decision in 1951 which effectively means it is highly unlikely that a single party could ever be elected to form the Government.

The decision was to change their electoral system to the MMP model and at the same time abolish – in effect they voted themselves out – their ‘Upper House’ of the NZ parliament.

There are some who would like to see a return to a system that has two Houses of Parliament.

I really hope nothing of the kind happens and taking into account that there must be very few – if any – New Zealand citizens who can even remember the former system I doubt if it will.

The question is have they missed out in some way and has it affected the democracy in New Zealand?

It doesn’t seem to me that it has.

One of the major advantages of the MMP model is that it allows more political parties into Parliament and with ‘every vote counting’ increases the electoral turn out. 

Even with a minority government all but guaranteed under MMP things will still get done because all parties enter a General Election knowing that it is almost certain that no single party will have an overall majority and they will have to go into a coalition.

The political inter-party infighting that leads to inertia and poor Government as we are currently experiencing in the United Kingdom under the Conservative – DUP coalition may well have been avoided under.

Oh and the taxpayer could have been saved in excess of £1.5b.

The nub of my argument is this – you don’t have to have a majority to have good government you simply have to have grown up politicians who put the people before their own self interest.

What we currently have is a system in which the opposition parties are under no obligation what so ever to cooperate because they have a second chamber to blame if it goes wrong.

More cynically they can pack the second chamber with their friends and get them to agree to vote controversial legislation through.

So let’s have a single chamber Government in the United Kingdom and along with it a four year fixed term parliament elected under a MMP system.

It will be the people who then provide the checks and balances of who is in power.
That will be true democracy and that’s what democracy is all about.

Isn’t it?