Peers got their glad rags on for the Queen’s Speech in May 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / BEN STANSALL
‘Democracy’ is a downright classy word, isn’t it? The letters look gold-plated and glossy, proudly flaunting their noble Greek ancestry. That word is peppered around political articles and campaigns, often in a well-meaning way by well-meaning folk. At its very core, democracy is good; everyone has a vote, so they can choose who they want to run the country. Lovely jubbly.
The House of Lords’ street rep has taken two big ass bullets in the past few weeks. Firstly, Lord Sewel’s laddish behaviour made everyone realise that we can’t punish mischievous Lords by not voting for them next time, because this House isn’t democratically elected. Secondly, the Prime Minister has accidentally appointed a stampede of Tory donors as peers, using Lordships as some kind of gold star sticker to give to donors who’ve been well behaved. Apparently the technical term for this is cronyism, but who likes being technical? No one. It’s gold star stickerism to you and me.
The reaction to these embarrassing stories has been to demand that the House of Lords is elected, which seems like a good idea on the face of it. But can you imagine needing to read up on 500 peoples’ career histories before the election to decide who’s an independent expert and who isn’t?
A huge chunk of people don’t have the time (or unfortunately the interest) to read two or three party manifestos before a general election, let alone be well informed about the leaders within the field of environmental science. Plus, can you think of anything more consciousness-destroying than having to research the academic careers of environmental scientists? I’m yawning even as I write that sentence (touch typing, babe).
I haven’t a clue who is respected within the field of medicine or law or business. My suggestion is: why don’t we leave the elections up to the people who do have a clue. If you work in medicine, then you get to vote on who the experts are in the field of medicine, and ditto for the armed forces, the police, education and the like. Then these experts will be nominated for a Lordship, and they’re then examined by the House of Lords Appointment Commission to check they’re solid. Et voilà! Freshly served intelligently elected Lords. Bon appetit.