The Jurassic Johns

Lord Tyler

The country, having killed off Gordon Brown’s government, finds itself left with a legacy.  A parting gift to the country.  Gordon Brown has bequeathed us John Leslie Prescott, who made a point at the weekend of saying that he was entering the Lords expressly to block reform.

Last week there was much huffing and puffing on the Labour benches about the prospect of more Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers being appointed.  It was a constitutional outrage.  It was gerrymandering.  It was “stuffing the House”.  All of that.  I wonder, though, which of their new Labour colleagues the old guard would dispense with?  There are plenty to choose from, since 29 of the 56 appointees are Labour – 52% of the total.

For my own part, I had some sympathy with the huffers and puffers but for different reasons.  The appointments, however estimable the individuals, enlarge the already absurdly bulbous membership of the House.  It presently stands at 707.  Soon it will be 763.  How long before we reach 800?  How long before we reach 1000?  It will soon feel more like the Athenian Pynx than a Senate.

I think it is a mistake to appoint more Life Peers when our key objective must be reducing patronage in our political system and replacing it with true democracy.  When I came to the House in 2005, I made it clear that I was coming as a turkey – ready, willing and eager to vote for Christmas.  And so it has been – as regular readers know, reforming the House has been the bread and butter of my campaigning ever since.

Not so the new intake.  An embarrassment of Johns.  Alongside Prescott are Hutton, McFall and Reid.  All voted for an all-appointed House of Lords when they were in the Commons in 2007.  All stood on manifestos pledging reform; all broke their promises.  How depressing.

More Peers appointed for life means more well-meaning people worrying that we should just think a little longer, and a little harder, and search a little more for that ever-elusive “consensus” on reform before doing anything about it.

I only hope that the Coalition will ignore the professional procrastinators.  Ministers must now get on with introducing legislation on reform, so we can finally dispense with all the Jurassic Johns’ services, and let the public choose who sits in the second chamber.

8 comments for “The Jurassic Johns

  1. 02/06/2010 at 11:50 am

    Lord Tyler: let the public choose who sits in the second chamber, or let the political parties choose their cronies to sit in the chamber in the name of democracy under a flawed PR system? Perhaps we should ask voters in Stoke-on-Trent Central, for example, whether they can see a difference between patronage and democracy.

  2. Gareth Howell
    02/06/2010 at 4:50 pm

    “Athenian Pynx”

    Is that a kind of reconstituted shell fish?

    “I was coming as a turkey – ready, willing and eager to vote for Christmas. And so it has been – as regular readers know, reforming the House has been the bread and butter of my campaigning ever since.”

    I appreciated Lord Tyler’s moving moment at the end of a succesful campaign, the other day, and wondered whether people have similar
    emotions when they win a campaign however foolish they are!

    In Lord Tyler’s case certainly not a foolish one, especially if prepared not to auto-digest as a turkey described above, but to be satisfied with bread and butter, instead of turkey, must point to a revulsion for cannibalism, of which I entirely approve.

  3. Senex
    02/06/2010 at 7:39 pm

    LT: When you say, “let the public choose who sits in the house” you are wrong. Let the members of respective political parties vote on who THEY see fit to sit in the house and give the public a break they have enough on with a moribund House of Commons.

    The House of Lords has never been more capable in its history. Now as one of Cromwell’s peers you wish to take it to a place where public indifference will weaken it to the point were it can be got rid of. Sorry, been there, done that! The suffrage that the house deserves must be relevant to its needs and not those of popular democracy.

    And God save us all from these discredited levellers that come to the house from a discredited place to feast upon the goodness of its dignity.

  4. Malden Capell
    02/06/2010 at 8:26 pm

    I agree that the Lords is getting larger and larger and that something has to be done to put a cap on its numbers and more stringently regulate patronage.

    But I do not agree we should throw out the baby with the bathwater and elect the Lords. That would neuter a clearly effective and working chamber and render it as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    There is no example of a unitary parliamentary state with an effective and elected second chamber. You get one or the other. I would choose effectiveness.

  5. Carl.H
    02/06/2010 at 9:23 pm

    I am more than a little perplexed and at the same time find it humourous that all of a sudden some politicians are calling for the public to get what it wants…..but it appears only on this one issue. Perhaps because certain individuals feel things MAY go their way in a referendum.

    So what about a referendum on wage increases when Parliament decides one is due to them, Europe is another cry I hear often, taxation, cancer treatments for all not postcoded and lots more….. But no it`s just this because you think the public would vote how you feel at present. You`re wrong, an elected Lords is wrong and I hope one day you may see the error of your way. I have stated numbers do need a cull down to the 500 mark but elected professional politicians, NO. We`ve seen over the last year the levels these people will sink to line their own pockets and you think another House full of them would be good ?

    This isn`t X-Factor or even Britains got Talent, how many major successful Companies let the employees vote for their CEO ? Would you have Regiments vote as to whether to go to Afghanistan or not ?

    If you continue in this vein, and are successful, all you will end up with is who the media want in power. Those that can advertise the best win, that`s the long and short of it.

    The reason an appointed Lords, as it is now, would lose a referendum is because the people would be brainwashed by the media and people such as yourself. You would have them under the illusion they would have a choice and in reality that choice would be the same as it is for the commons….Bad, worse and Lib Dem.

    You would talk of accountability, there is none….The Country is broke yet who is responsible ? Who is suffering because they were responsible and are now held accountable ? John Prescott ? Obviously not !

    Reform by all means, less numbers more scrutiny but don`t try to con me or the people of Britain into thinking you are trying to give us the best system by offering an alternative which will only turn out to give professional politicians, who in my opinion lack integrity and ethic, total power.

    The Lords was founded to give the powerful of our Nation a voice in our nation not to give the politicians of our Nation total power. Leaders are made not voted for. You Sir would see the flambouyant car salesman held higher than the educated academic.

    I agree reform is needed now, it has too long been in the offing but not as you say an elected House, this would be the most foolish act ever seen in British Politics.

  6. 03/06/2010 at 5:26 pm

    Andrew Neil mentioned on This Week recently that the average upper chamber in a democracy has a membership of 80.

    If we go on at this rate, perhaps we should declare the entire population Lords and Ladies, and just cross people off for bad behaviour?

  7. 04/06/2010 at 2:35 am

    The ‘Jurassic Johns’:
    Experienced and still-balanced minds are surely already in agreement with Lord Tyler that “our key objective must be the reducing of patronage in our political system and replacing it with true democracy”.

    Senex and Carl H. might do well to consider a pre-political selection-of-HoL-candidates, by a Method III win-win-win Body drawn from disinterested and impartial members of Academia, the Parliaments, and The People.

    This body’s service in this should perhaps be a part-time one, say in shifts of no more than a total 8 hours each per week, thus more effectively objectivising the process than would a small full-time team working 40 hours each per week; and should be on a costs and expenses only basis thus encouraging principled service to Democracy rather than selfish monetary or material gain.

    Their task would be to receive or gather names and appropriate CVs of possible candidates, to facilitate publicisation and public-discussion of the resulting plenum list and of successive shortlistings, until a ballot-paper friendly multiple-choice list is achieved ready for The People to vote on.

    At this point the people would be asked to vote, by numbering the ballot-paper list 1, 2, 3 … 10 (or however many).

    Let’s face it, from the election point onwards, the matter becomes competitively owned by portcullises down, drawbridges up, closed constitutional, parliamentary, political, and media processes, traditionally excluding the people from that now ‘closed’ particular duty and task.

    That is why to achieve true and continuously effective democracy, the People should be protected and enabled to associate cooperatively and non-competitively, for the single track purpose of (i) comprehending the facts (ii) discussing the various needs and hows of all those who will be affected by the decision-making that ends up as Law, and writing these their findings as an upwards and outwards democratic-people’s submission.

    The people need to be able to perform this kind of citizenship task non-politically and non-competitively, as cooperative and participatory needs-recognition, problem-solving, and deep-deliberation.

    The People also need this same enabled-empowerment and protection for other democratic matters ongoingly between elections.

    Baroness D’Souza’s (Lord Norton associated) topics and replies under ‘To Refer or not ?’ contain some such ideas towards effective Enablements of The People and of Parliamentarians, as a mandatory pre-requisite to respective Empowerments:

    (1)A pre-selection of able-and willing peer-candidates, leading through a cooperative period (i.e. non-competitive) of publicised short-listing processes, leading to an end-point of election by The People via a graded mutiple-listed ballot-paper.

    Yet I see The Peoples’ need to be more important and more urgent to be tackled and set into proactive motion, than that of the Houses of Parliament.

    I believe the latter would be enhanced in their problem-solving and ultimate outcomes, by:
    (2) Ongoing long-term enablement of every level of The People, to become able to seriously submit upwards, and at the same time laterally outwards to all of The People, their needs, questions, problems, life-experience and constructive-suggestions; and especially to be facilitated to do this ongoingly between elections.

    In this the people need to be enabled, empowered, and protected, to perform this duty as Earth-citizens or civilised British human-beings, rather than as British media-and-party-politicised-puppets.

    That is probably quite a lot for our hearts and minds to contemplate and work upon, wouldn’t you think ?

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