The House of Lords is long overdue reform. Labour started the process in 1999 when it removed the vast majority of hereditary peers and replaced them with academics, business leaders, trade unionists, former politicians and others from civic society. Nonetheless, as these people are unelected, the House of Lords remains an anachronism which must be modernised.
Whilst reform is overdue, I find myself questioning why Michelle Mone OBE’s peerage should be the catalyst for this change. I am no great fan of her politics, but I do respect her entrepreneurial zeal. When one reads the attacks directed at her right to be appointed to the House of Lords from Scottish nationalists on social media, it is clear that these focus more on her gender than her talents as a business leader. This is entirely counter-productive and demonstrates that whilst Scots may be overwhelming politically engaged, the level of the engagement is often in the gutter.
Rather than attacking Michelle Mone, these nationalists would be much more likely to see the reform of the House of Lords if they were to urge the SNP to back Labour’s proposal for a UK wide constitutional convention which will review the whole of our democratic processes. However, I have the feeling that the SNP and its support base are more interested in attacking UK institutions than seeing them reformed.
As an example of what a constitutional convention could deliver, one must look no further than Kezia Dudgale MSP. Rather than simply joining the chorus of calls for the House of Lords to be wholly elected, she has shown real leadership by suggesting that it should also be physically moved outside the Westminster bubble. Glasgow is her suggestion.
So yes, let’s reform the House of Lords. But let’s also use that reform as an opportunity to overhaul the whole democratic process in the UK from the methods we use to elect our representatives, to how we ensure government remains relevant and accountable to the electorate.