I’m not as bothered that the ancestors of some current peers are bastard sons of Charles the Second than that so many of them come from the South East of England.
It’s a fact that the vast majority of the 826 members of the House of Lords are either from that corner of the country or live there now.
This means that most members of the upper chamber who play a crucial role in our law making know little or nothing about our neck of the woods, so roll on regional peers.
The way in which a reshaped House of Lords will be elected has received little attention from the Westminster Village journalists. That’s not surprising as most of them are from the London area.
However the bill to be debated on Monday contains plans that could give a real voice to the North. 80% of the new house will be elected by proportional representation. These new democratic Lords will sit for one 15 year term and they will be elected from the regions of England. So the North West, North East and Yorkshire will be able to elect representatives who know about our patch and its people.
This proposal will also have the advantage of reasserting the concept of the North West of England. The Coalition has spent two years comprehensively wiping regions off the map. Now they are beginning to realise the usefulness of uniting Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and the great cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Better together indeed.
When the time comes we will need to make sure that independent people have a real shot at getting elected. The main political parties will choose their candidates on a list and depending on the votes they get, their peers will be elected in the same way as we choose our members of the European Parliament.
It is a system that locks out the public in favour of party cabals so we will have our work cut out to get independent voices to beat them, but that’s not for now.
What is immediately required is support for the government in getting the Lords reformed. It currently looks as if the Coalition Government is faced with a Coalition of political opportunists and peers with self interested reasons for seeing no reform at all.
All parties are split. The Lib Dems are most in favour but watch some of their representatives in the Lords who may not be too keen to lose their seats. A large number of Tory backbenchers are against for various reasons. There is a group following in the tradition of their predecessors 100 years ago who were prepared to draw the monarchy into politics as they fought against Lords reform. Others are spoiling for a fight with the Lib Dems who are most committed to the measure.
Then there is Labour who are in a mood of dangerous opportunism. They have been in favour of full Lords reform since Kier Hardy (their founder) was a lad. However they can’t resist embarrassing the government by calling for endless debating time on the bill. If they vote with rebel Tories on the motion which decides how long Lords Reform is going to be debated, it could effectively kill the measure.
If that happened the North West would be denied a real chance for a voice in this country’s second chamber.