The Government White Paper on Lords reform is expected to be published tomorrow (Monday). I and others will have the opportunity to comment further once it is published, but here are a few questions to bear in mind when you see the details:
To what extent does the White Paper actually provide an intellectually coherent case for change as opposed simply to accepting a declaratory vote in the House of Commons?
To what extent does it define the terms that are used to underpin the case for reform? Taking terms such as democracy, legitimacy and representation as given, as opposed to contested concepts, would suggest ignorance of the literature on the concepts as well as recent work relating them to the upper chamber. To refer to election of the second chamber as ‘the democratic option’ as if that is a self-evident truism should be taken as indicative of intellectual laziness.
Taking one of these concepts, that of representation, to what extent is the White Paper able to distinguish between representative as denoting a principal-client relationship and representative as denoting a socially typical body? Lord Chancellor Jack Straw has variously mixed the two, ignoring the fact that the two are not necessarily compatible. An elected (representative) second chamber can work against producing a more socially typical (representative) chamber.
If it is merely a document concerned with the mechanics for producing an elected chamber, how consistent are the proposals? I have already drawn attention to the potential conflict between the purpose of having a single, long-term of office with the proposal for recall petitions.
Of course, the leaks about the content of the White Paper could be misleading. Maybe it is a work of deep philosophical reasoning. We shall see. Watch this space.