Revealed: the true scale of opposition to our unelected Lords

The full extent of opposition to our unreformed House of Lords has been revealed…the day after the government announced their ‘rapid review’ into the powers of the upper chamber.  

Yesterday the ERS released polling showing that just 10% of the public think that the House of Lords should remain a fully-unelected chamber. Needless to say, that’s a pretty low level of support to base an institution’s existence on.

The findings follow last night’s announcement by the government that they will be launching their ‘rapid review’ into the powers of the House of Lords, led by Conservative hereditary peer Lord Strathclyde (you couldn’t make it up, could you?).

The polling by BMG Research has found that 48% of the public think the Lords should be an elected chamber, while 22% back abolition. That compares to only one in ten who back the unelected status quo. So 70% want radical change.

So what will the government’s review entail, on the back of this? It looks likely that it will focus on enshrining the currently-unwritten conventions preventing the House of Lords from over-ruling the government on financial matters. But we think it should go much further.

The review itself is welcome. But the public clearly want real reform of the House of Lords – not just tinkering around the edges. Only one in ten back the unelected status quo.

Yet the government are tying themselves in knots over this question, with George Osborne saying he supports an elected upper house yesterday, while this review only looks at the issue of conventions.

All this comes off the back of Monday’s defeats of the government in the second chamber. But if we’re going to have change, they shouldn’t be fiddling with our constitution out of partisan interest, just because they lost a couple of votes – they have to deal with the crux of the matter: the make-up of the constitutional calamity that is the House of Lords.

So instead of simply emasculating our revising chamber, they should ensure it has the legitimacy it needs to be a real check on executive power. That can only happen through electing it.

We have a crisis of democracy in this country – a government handed a majority on just 37% of the vote, and on the other side a house with too many political hacks and cronies. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two democratically-dubious chambers look pretty ridiculous shouting about each other’s alleged illegitimacy…

Whatever the case, this review needs opening up to the public. It can’t be left to ‘the great and the good’ to decide on Britain’s constitutional future behind closed doors.

A national debate is now needed about the nature of the House of Lords – and it has to deal with the issue of electing all those who vote on our laws. It is expensive, over-sized and archaic – and the public know it.

For more of the ERS’ research on the House of Lords, see our recent report, “The House of Lords: Fact vs Fiction”. For headline figures see here.

The ERS calculated on Monday that packing the Lords with 100 extra Conservative Peers would cost at least £2.6m per year in expenses and allowances – before extra office, infrastructure and staffing costs are taken into account – https://t.co/oXgNBPFIYK

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