The vote by the House of Commons for a 100% elected House of Lords came as a complete surprise to most commentators as well as the majority of the cabinet. Tony Blair showed just how far out of touch he is with the prevailing mood by voting for the 50% appointed/50% elected House of Lords – the option that was defeated by the biggest majority.
I can't see the 100% elected option getting much further, however. A significant number of MPs who voted for it actually don't support radical reform of the Lords. They voted for this option because they think that it has little chance of progressing, playing just the sort of political games that most of the public don't understand and certainly don't like. There was, however, a real majority for the option of having an 80% elected House of Lords and this would seem to be where we are heading.
There are still big issues to be addressed, not least getting the ermine clad turkeys to vote for Christmas. Also high up the agenda must be the size of the reformed House and its role: these already seem to be getting lost in a largely irrelevant debate about what is should be called. Just as with the House of Commons (see below), we should first look at the functions of the new upper house and then properly analyse how many people are needed to carry out those functions effectively.
As to the key question: should there be any appointed members? I think that 20% is about right so long as it is kept away from the Prime Minister of the day. We need to create a system where people who would never stand for election but who can make a major contribution to the legislative process can be appointed for a fixed term.
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