Tuesday, February 20, 2007

House of Lords Reform.

Can someone explain to me why British politicians (and British population) are so much against a democratically elected upper house?

Yes, I know the argument that the function of the Lords is to review and scrutinise legislation. However, unless the British public rejects democracy, this function is surely best performed by a fully elected chamber

My solution is simple and democratic: Proportional representation in a fully elected House of Lords would create a perfect balance to the unrepresentative House of Commons, which is elected by the first-past-the-post system.

In this way the executive would still be able to control the most important lower house, while at the same time be subject to scrutiny of an upper house where no party would have overall majority.

Of course the downside would be that probably more people would vote.


At 21 February, 2007 03:36, Blogger Charles said...

Torsten, I must confess, I am an absolute moron when it comes to British politics. I have absolutely no clue as to the details of their parliamentary system of government. I do, however, get a big kick out of watching their sessions on C-span. What a riot! I never enjoyed political debate so much in my life. I was amazed at how involved Tony Blair was in the debates. If our president had to engage the House in that sort of fashion...oh man. It would not be pretty.

One question, though. Why would it be a downside if more of the British population voted, or were you being rhetorical?

At 21 February, 2007 17:15, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Yes, the Prime Ministers Question Time is quite entertaining and unique. While it is usual for Government Ministers to be required to answers Parliament's question in Parliamentarian Democracies (where the executive governs on the basis of majority support in Parliament), nowhere else do the MP's engage in taunting and heckling.

Question Time is, however, a charade. The questions are submitted in advance and are constructed to give the PM and Opposition leader cheap sound-bites. Typical questions are like this:

- "Would the Prime Minister agree that the government is doing a great job in raising standards in school and that the opposition's plan to provide free school lunches will undermine society as we know it?"


- "Will the Prime Minister now accept that his scheme to encourage recycling has completely failed and that and that all right thinking, law abiding and hard working people are sick and tired of his recycling of ideas?"

Normal parliamentary sessions are completely different and often consist of only a handful of MP's debating Bill's etc.

Concerning voter turnout: I was trying to be ironic. Election turnout in the UK is usually 20-30% lower than other Northern European countries. The significant difference is that other European countries uses a system of Proportionate Representation to elect the legislature, whereas the UK uses First-Past-The-Post.

I suspect that the political elite in the UK really don't want high levels of voter turnout, as the 'non-voters' probably vote for the two traditional parties. In the last election (2005) Tony Blair's Labour Party only received 36 % of the popular vote, with a 61 % voter turnout. Yet Labour has an absolute majority in Parliament.

At 21 February, 2007 20:48, Blogger Charles said...


I think that I could really get into British politics. I have to admit, the lively debate is rather entertaining, and very interesting, though if it is all fluff and sound bites, I might change my mind.

By the way, I figured you were being ironic, I just had to ask. ;-) I would suspect that elections abroad and here in the U.S would be much different if people would actually involve themselves in decisions that they inevitably complain about. It is a sad state of affairs when complacency reigns.


At 22 February, 2007 17:09, Blogger David said...

Having lived in both Canada and Australia, I can vouch that the British tradition of a raucous question period has been passed on to these nations as well. Though according to the CBC the behavior we see today has been spurred to greater heights (depths?) by the presence of TV cameras. It really is an act of political theater. Though I have to say in terms of sheer ability to take the mickey out of a politician, the Aussie question period wins hands down.


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