Thursday 30 July 2015

Stuffing the House of Lords - How David Cameron's maths just doesn't add up

In the wake of the scandal involving the House of Lords peer John Buttifant Sewel (where he was filmed taking what appeared to be cocaine and cavorting with prostitutes) the unelected and anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords has come back under scrutiny.

The SNP famously oppose the House of Lords and do not accept unelected peerages, so their condemnation of the system carries much more weight than the others, however the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and all four of the Labour leadership candidates have all stated that it's time for the long overdue reform of the House of Lords to make it more democratic, more accountable and less bloated and expensive.

David Cameron has taken a completely different stance, declaring his intention to do nothing whatever to reform the House of Lords, and instead continue to stuff it full of even more unelected peers (many of them major Tory party donors no doubt), using the absurd excuse that he needs to add even more unelected peers to the already bloated chamber to rebalance the composition of the House of Lords to match the composition of the House of Commons.

Before I get to demonstrating the absurdity of David Cameron's claim to be rebalancing the House of Lords in the name of fairness, it's important to point out how his plans to add even more unelected politicians to the Lords while planning to cut the number of elected members of the Commons is an affront to the concept of democracy. Cameron claims that the House of Commons needs to cut back 50 elected MPs in order to save money, yet in his time as Prime Minister he's already added an a staggering 197 unelected peers to the House of Lords, and intends to add at least another 50 more as soon as he gets the chance, and even more after that.

How David Cameron's maths just doesn't add up

David Cameron has consistently claimed that he needs to continue stuffing the bloated House of Lords with ever more unelected peers in order to rebalance the composition of the chamber to match that of the House of Commons, hence his decision to add dozens of Liberal Democrat peers alongside the scores of new Tory peers during the last parliament.

Under the current anti-democratic shambles of a system it's obviously not possible to remove Lib-Dem peers because their minor party is now massively over-represented, because it's not even possible to remove convicted perjurers like Jeffrey Archer, the jailed expenses cheats Paul White and John Taylornor even the convicted arsonist Mike Watson

Given that the House of Lords won't even remove convicted criminals, including two who were jailed for stealing from the taxpayer via their House of Lords expenses, it's not likely they're going to remove Lib-Dem peers for massively over-representing their dwindling party. So the only way for the House of Lords to be rebalanced is to increase the number of unelected peers from other parties until they are proportionate to the Liberal Democrat share of the House of Lords. There are two ways of doing this, it can either be done by balancing the number of peers per party to the share of votes cast at the last election, or by balancing the number of peers per party to the share of MPs in the House of Commons.
Balancing to the vote share

The Liberal Democrats took 7.9% of the vote at the 2015 General Election, which means that in order to be proportionate every 7.9% of the General Election vote a party got should return 101 unelected peers, or more simply, each 1% of the vote should be worth 12.78 unelected peers.

If we try to put this method of introducing proportionality into practice, the House of Lords would have to almost double in size to almost 1,500 unelected members (including the 179 unelected crossbench peers and the 26 unelected Church of England bishops).

Given that UKIP took 12.7% of the vote compared to the Lib-Dems 7.9%, they would need to increase their House of Lords contingent from the current 3 unelected peers to 160.

The Green Party would be entitled to another 47 unelected peers to add to their single member, the SNP would have to be offered 59 unelected peerages (which they would decline on principle) and various other smaller parties such as Plaid Cymru and the DUP would be entitled to several more unelected peers too.

In order to make the Tory and Labour share of the unelected peerages match the General Election vote share without removing any of the 101 Liberal Democrats, they would need an additional 241 and 172 seats respectively.

Under a system where the number of peerages is matched to the vote share in the General Election, it would be necessary for David Cameron to create almost 700 new completely unelected life peers.

Balancing to the number of MPs

If creating an additional 700 unelected peers in order to rebalance the House of Lords sounds crackers, then just think about how many new unelected peers would be needed to balance the House of Lords to match the share of MPs in the House of Commons.

The Lib Dems have 101 peers, but just 8 of the 650 MPs (1.2%). This means that for each 1% of the number of MPs a party has, they should be entitled to 84 unelected peers.

Due to the bizarrely unrepresentative nature of the House of Commons electoral system UKIP and the Green Party wouldn't fare too well, with an entitlement of just 12 unelected peers each to reflect the fact that they only got one MP apiece, despite bagging well over five million votes between them.

The big winners would be the SNP who would have the opportunity to decline the offer of 717 unelected peers to match their share of the MPs in parliament; the DUP, which bagged as many seats as the Liberal Democrats would be entitled to increase their number of unelected peers from 4 to 101; and Paid Cymru would be entitled to increase their representation of unelected peers from 2 to 38.

Labour and the Tories would once again be the biggest winners. Labour would need to increase their representation from 212 to 2,975 unelected peers, and the Tories would need to increase theirs from 226 to 4,225.

Using the number of MPs in the House of Commons as the base to which the House of Lords is rebalanced would require an upper chamber with 8,411 members (including the 205 bishops and crossbenchers)

So what is David Cameron's idea of fairness?

David Cameron clearly has no intention of properly balancing the House of Lords to reflect the vote share, nor the number of MPs, otherwise the House of Lords would have to become by far the most bloated legislative assembly in the entire world (it's already the biggest in the world outside of China).

What David Cameron means by fairness is stuffing the House of Lords with dozens more Tory supporters so that his government is able to force through deeply unpopular legislation (such as scrapping of the "free at the point of need" principle from the NHS) without resistance from the Lords, and screw the fact that the Liberal Democrats are massively overrepresented compared to all of the other minor parties.

David Cameron doesn't give a stuff about fairness, he's only using the concept of fairness as a convenient excuse for stuffing even more of his cronies and party donors into the unelected upper chamber. If he gave the slightest damn about fairness, then he'd not have completely ruled out reforming the House of Lords to make it a democratic and accountable institution, rather than the anti-democratic bastion of unelected and unaccountable establishment privilege that render claims that the UK is a democracy utterly laughable.

A much simpler proposal

The supposed "logic" behind David Cameron's efforts to rebalance the House of Lords is that the make up of the Lords should reflect the wishes of the electorate. However, rather than constantly adding ever more unelected Lords in order to rebalance the make up, it would surely be much simpler to introduce democratic elections so the public can directly influence the process, rather than have David Cameron load the place full of unelected establishment cronies.

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The campaign for fair votes
Labour vs the Lib-Dems in the strategic ineptitude stakes
What the response to the Fair Votes petition tells us about the Tory mentality
George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
What do Tory donors get for their cash?
The Tory ideological mission
How the Lib-Dems were just as compassionless as the Tories
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies

1 comment:

Sarah Saad said...