Is election the democratic option?

Lord Norton

In my Stevenson Lecture at the University of Glasgow in January, I addressed the claim that election of a second chamber necessarily constitutes the ‘democratic’ option.  This is often advanced by proponents of an elected second chamber as if it were self-evidently correct.   I argued that it is not necessarily the democratic option, a point to which I returned in the debate in the House in June on the White Paper on Lords’ reform. 

I thought it would be appropriate to solicit the views of a political theorist and so approached a colleague, Dr Colin Tyler, who specialises in democratic theory.   Here is his response:

“You asked me to send you my thoughts about whether or not having an elected second chamber would help British democracy.

The conceptual points seem straightforward (even if often overlooked by the pro-reformers).  Parliament is democratic to the extent that its pronouncements and actions (crudely, the laws it makes and the policies it pursues) are determined by the electorate through the decisions of the representatives they chose at properly-constituted and authorised elections.  To the extent that such a process of determination is not reflected in Parliament’s subsequent pronouncements and actions, then Parliament fails to be fully democratic.  The crucial point in the context of Lords reform is that what matters is that the outputs of Parliament can be traced to the will of the electorate as expressed through their representatives (as just described).  Where these outputs enact something different to that will – or where they do not enact what the electorate will – then Parliament is not acting democratically.

To the extent that Lords reform will give the Lords parity with the Commons, it will divide sovereignty within Parliament, thereby making it harder for Parliament to act at all.  (Witness the recent and on-going problems with the US budget).  Consequently, democratising one part of Parliament (the Lords) will reduce the democratic character of the whole (Parliament).  And ultimately it is the democratic character of Parliament that matters, not the democratic character of its constituent parts considered in isolation from each other.

Obviously, it depends on how one thinks of Parliament.  Yet, as you can infer, I have very great concerns that, as with any complex institution, it is easy to focus on the parts while forgetting the whole from which they gain their function and worth

I am often struck by the fact that many who support Lords reform seem to wish to address these problems.  However, always the solutions they propose are palpably inadequate, often smacking of a desperate wish that ‘democracy’ meant something different.

Of course, another option would be to abolish the Lords completely.  The resulting unicameral system would be more democratic than the present system, but very possibly recklessly so.  After all, how much more havoc could both Thatcher and Blair (and many others) have reaped had they not been held in check to some degree by the Lords?”

53 comments for “Is election the democratic option?

  1. Gareth Howell
    23/08/2011 at 5:59 pm

    The reaping Thatcher and Blair would probably say none at all. Blair defined his understanding of democracy very clearly at the beginning of the Iraq war which may not have been a very good time for philosophy of that sort. I can not remember precisely what the wording was, but it
    was only to do with votes in the HofC that he refered.

    The queen reminds us that her forefathers were democratically elected, but that was 300 years ago. 15 years is quite a long time too
    which is the projected term for each elected member in the reformed HofL.
    Two terms of 4 years each and then compulsory retirement would be ample.

    Merely because elected peers would be accountable does not mean that sovereignty would be divided. It would make no difference, even if they shouted about it.

    A good many people are interested in the Bill, with all manner of opinion, a unicameral system being quite a popular one.

    There is plenty for 100 people to do, and that is the number I suggest, but others say 300, all elected.

  2. Twm
    23/08/2011 at 6:12 pm

    The idea that election may not be democratic is cupidity(-ous). One man one vote has always protected the landed class from losing its estates, a veneer that distracts attention from real business,

    Whilst the totally undemocratic business of the city goes on unabated, robber barons on every corner, the shifting of parties and governments in and out of office, by popular vote, deludes most people in to thinking that they actually have a say, which extends beyond the ballot box, once every four years or so.

    It would/will be no different if and when the HofL is elected, a mere distraction from the real business of oligarchic new town and city development, as well as from the thieving of the city of London.

  3. Senex
    23/08/2011 at 8:51 pm

    Wat! Not another Tyler. It’s the last straw Jack.

    I listened to a recording of what you had to say during the Reform Debate, it was well received. Again, what is written in your editorial is equally well considered.

    Neither Dr Colin Tyler nor you make any mention of democracy being relevant to a need. More to the point what does the HoL represent to the public and why do they consider the house so irrelevant? It is irrelevant because they don’t elect the house but it is also irrelevant because the house collectively represents the British Establishment and its Authority.

    Having the house elected by the plebeian will not diminish in any way their view of the establishment and everybody bar none has an axe to grind with the establishment at some point or another.

    The Peasants revolt of 1381 is a case in point. Parliament is dominated by the establishment of the day and it is very, very powerful. It sits as part of an agrarian economy and wealth is land and the Lords and Clergy control it. The Lords are accountable to the King and the King to God through the Clergy. The Lords and the Commons legislate control of England to favour the establishment. The Peasants want IN to this relationship and by inference a house that represents them and only them without hierarchy.

    The HoL has always represented the establishment; however its ability to be relevant to contemporary society began to wane when our economy moved away from land ownership and an agrarian economy. The house today is very relevant to a contemporary society but it lacks the legitimacy to represent that establishment. An indirectly elected house would fulfil that need.

    By directly electing the house the executive besotted by romantic notions of democracy and federal republics wants to cut the establishment adrift and leave it to its own devises without any accountability through Parliament. The establishment has always been held to account through Parliament. It has a legitimate right to a point of view, in plain sight and the right to say “No” when necessary.

    Does your establishment insure dead peasants? Free it and find out.

    Ref: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History
    Lecture 30: In the Wake of the Black Death; Wat Tyler
    The United States Establishment

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      24/08/2011 at 7:15 pm

      Senex: The only problem is that you base your argument on a false assumption. There is no evidence that people see the House of Lords as an irrelevance. Quite the reverse, as reflected in the last major opinion poll (the IpsosMORI poll of 2007) on the subject.

      • Senex
        24/08/2011 at 8:58 pm

        In a later poll Mirror readers think the house irrelevant.

        Ref: Are the Lords Listening? Creating Connections Between People and Parliament
        6 May 2009. Volume II: Evidence. Mr Beattie; p55 para1

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          28/08/2011 at 12:33 pm

          Senex: It hardly competes with the in-depth Ipsos MORI poll which, almost alone among polls on the subject, actually pursues a range of options rather than the single dichotomous polls that tend to predominate.

          • Lord Blagger
            28/08/2011 at 1:43 pm

            And were they asked about abolition of the Lords?

            We’re they told about the Lords corruption of selling legislation for cash, or for claiming attendance allowances when not attending? Were they told about the housing expense fiddles?

            Anyone can design a bias poll.

            Far more difficult though when people are told about what has been going on first.

  4. maude elwes
    24/08/2011 at 8:11 am

    Now this is an interesting one. And how easily those who rule find it to hoodwink the public at every turn in order to fill the seats of power with ‘their’ men.

    It really begins with who decides on who will run for election? Who selects the candidates and on what criteria? As we have already tolerated the enforced idiot lists, where people are selected by the parties on the grounds of their sex, race, disability and so on, rather than on their affiliation with and representation of, the voter and their needs, because to do so would diminish the selectors power, it will simply grow into a further disassociation with democracy itself. And only when the voter is asked to choose the man/woman of their dreams will there be any return to the idea of selection with meaning.

    Further, when the elected one is then taken into the arms of the party they are affiliated with and allowed to ‘represent in truth’ those who voted for him/her, in the way they answer the call of the division bell, then and only then, will there be anything close to democracy.

    One can therefore assume that the new ‘elected’ Lords would be run on the same lines. Those who will dance to the tune of the piper and not to the wishes of the audience, will be selected for office and put out for acceptance by the crowd, who will be forced to wear blinkers as they take the ballot paper.

    As the dreaded Blair was mentioned, lets start with him. He was clearly in office because he was willing to sell his soul for the perks he saw as his future. He uses with impunity his knowledge of the innermost secrets of this office to fill his coffers with traitor money. It could be called insider dealing. It appears, Mandelson, and others like him, follow this chosen path likewise, and of course, sell their secrets to the highest bidder. The nation and its people had no say in either the choice of these individuals to be the bearers of their colours, or, in what it was they were going to press for on their behalf. Look at the policies they hid and kept from the public prior to election. Open door immigration being just one of them, and a shock to us all when moved so swiftly into practice.

    In reality, its the system that needs to change, starting with the Lords, on how we can be involved in the selection of the candidates and how we can legally require the openness of their political intentions prior to our votes being cast. Presently, only those with the funds of Warren Buffet are represented and that has to change and rapidly, otherwise, in a very short period of time, we will be a nation run on third world despotism.

    Unless the Lords accept we are drifting into a form of complete misrepresentation of the people, which will be as dark for them as it is for us, and have the courage to force the changes required, by whatever means they have to, then we will sink into the mentality of anarchy we see growing around us by the day.

    Don’t fall into the trap spouted on this mornings BBC, that this latest insurgence is a one off. Because if you believe that, you are living in a fools paradise.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      24/08/2011 at 7:19 pm

      maude elwes: “Presently, only those with the funds of Warren Buffet are represented…”

      If only. There are a fair few peers of extremely humble origins and some who presently have difficulties making ends meet.

      • MilesJSD
        25/08/2011 at 3:44 am

        What might be the minimum essential human-living, for one human-being to make and maintain her/him-self not only Healthy but Citizenlike and Environmentally-supportive ?

        (Hint: The ‘guaranteed British minimum income’ is approx £150 per week, upon which (therefore) any one human-being resident in Britain can happily ‘make ends meet’, lifelong)

        (Supplementary question: Why is it that the more monetarily and environmentally destructive an individual becomes, i.e. by drawing/being-given more than one human-living from the Common Purse, the more “private”, “secretive”, and protected that individual’s destructivity is constituted and legislated to be held, bureaucratically & compulsorily funded by we Taxpayers ?)


      • maude elwes
        25/08/2011 at 9:13 am

        @Lord Norton:

        Then it is up to those knowledgeable and visionary people to club together and mount a resistance to this exclusion of the nations people from their democratic entitlements. The backing for it is in the street, waiting with bated breath.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          26/08/2011 at 12:51 pm

          maude elwes: The one thing we can show is that the people have never got that excited about the second chamber. We can show that now through survey data. We also know from published studies that even in the elections of 1910, when supposedly it was a case of ‘Peers versus the People’, the public were not really engaged at all. They were far more concerned with a range of other issues.

          • maude elwes
            26/08/2011 at 2:42 pm

            @Lord N:

            They are excited and ready now, if you were to tell them what they want to hear. It’s apathy that keeps them in limbo.

            They believe nothing will change for their best interests. If you show that to be different now, by the actions you take, and not the words you speak, then you will see the kind of support you could only have dreamed of.

      • 26/08/2011 at 11:32 am

        I find that extremely difficult to believe, and have never come across any examples.

        • maude elwes
          26/08/2011 at 3:00 pm

          @Matt: Not really sure to which post this reply was directed?

          It does get a little mixed up here sometimes. They should change the system to enable clearer message sending.

          The EU debate forum was better in that it was easy to follow. Sadly, it was shut down. Although this blog is better in some ways because it removes and blocks troll and the like like. Allowing a better debate opportunity.

          • 26/08/2011 at 7:09 pm

            Yes, an apparent mix-up … hopefully will work this time … I find it difficult to believe there are any peers struggling to make ends meet.

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            28/08/2011 at 12:36 pm

            maude elwes: People get very excited about particular issues, including a number discussed by the House of Lords, but there’s no evidence of the people ever getting excited about the House of Lords as such.

            I do, though, agree that if people are to believe that things are to change for the better, then it is crucial that politicians give a lead not only by words but by action, including their own conduct.

  5. Twm
    24/08/2011 at 2:19 pm

    Electoral colleges for “selection” of candidates at constituency level would not change; union barons and tory barons making their choices through the electoral colleges, and frequently choosing themselves, or tame members.

    • Senex
      24/08/2011 at 9:01 pm

      Tym: the executive is running with this on a very simple basis. If an unelected reforming house cannot reliably get its amendments through because the house lacks legitimacy then a HoL elected on the same basis as the Commons cannot be denied its way.

      The house has many Barons formally recognised as such but equally the establishment outside of Parliament has ‘Barons’ that are many times more powerful than any that sit in the house. So why are they not sitting in the house where Parliament can hold them to account?

      The answer is that the hereditary peerage held on to the very last believing they represented the establishment. The truth is they did not; they became disconnected from the establishment centuries ago to become a class or ruling elite. It is a quirk that the Life Peerages Act 1958 has forced Parliament to select on the basis of diversity not of the plebeian but of the establishment.

      I think you do electoral colleges a disservice. They would have clear guidelines as to what is needed in terms of expertise and this goes beyond simply being clever. They may even elect on the basis of executive power in an enterprise outside of Parliament; all would depend on the needs of the house and Parliament.

      The manner of how all this would start is gradual not the big bang of a directly elected house. The first tribe to be elected might not be followed by the next until say a decade had passed. Lessons learned would be the cue to begin the next phase. It might all take 50 years or it could happen in 10 but it would nevertheless be happening?

      Is the executive so sure that its amendments are being bounced on the basis of illegitimacy alone or is it that the house even in its present form must represent the views of the establishment and that is the real reason why things get bounced?

  6. blunderbuss
    24/08/2011 at 6:47 pm

    There should only be Men of Substance,allowed to sit in the Lords. The reason for this is that they will hold the executive in check. because they have the most to lose, and are less inclined to bismerch there reputation for government

    • Barry Blatt
      24/08/2011 at 8:17 pm

      Err… Lord Archer? Amongst many.

    • Vicky Seddon
      26/08/2011 at 12:25 am

      Men of Substance?

      But we all have things to lose (and particularly at the moment women who work in th public sector)so why shouldn’t we all be represented?

      We are seeing a lot of rearguard arguments against something that was in the manifestoes of all the main political parties. The argument for democratic change has been won – but those with vested interests are determined to undermine this.

      None of the unelected Lords can speak for us

      • Lord Norton
        Lord Norton
        26/08/2011 at 12:49 pm

        Vicky Seddon: I fear it is comments such as these that demonstrate the intellectual paucity of the case for election. For one thing, the party election manifestos said different things: neither the Labour nor Conservatibe manifestos committed the parties to an elected second chamber. Labour is committed to a referendum and the Conservatives to seeking a consensus. It is fairly clear there is no consensus.

        To claim that the argument for ‘democratic change’ has been won reflects the absence of any depth to those making the claim for change, demonstrating an incapacity to grasp the very point made in the post. In a system of assymetrical bicameralism in a unitary state, it is the members of the elected and dominant chamber who speak for the people and can ensure that they have their way.

  7. Gareth Howell
    25/08/2011 at 10:34 am

    Having the house elected by the plebeian will not diminish in any way their view of the establishment and everybody bar none has an axe to grind with the establishment at some point or another.

    Obviously a “fair few” find it difficult to make ends meet, but the general principle of being near the seat of power, making it easier,at the moment to be a peer on a shoe string, applies. If you can get up from Surrey on £12 return cheap day, it is obviously easier than to spend the night in London and to come up from Cornwall.

    In general the further from the seat of power, the further radially from the centre,
    the more likely is the contempt of it, which is what accounts for the radical views of Cornish men, the West Waleian, and their desire for devolution from Westminster, or different representation in it.

    If you live in Westminster, the more likely you are to respect it, even if you only brew the tea, or clean the Chancellor’s shoes.
    I did hear that one cleaning lady in the corridors, became a member with the greatest of ease. whether she claimed expenses first I would not hazard to guess

  8. 26/08/2011 at 11:37 am

    The OP is straining too hard to justify keeping things largely as they are. No system of government is perfect, so it just needs something different/eccentric/diverse/random/ troublesome to keep it in check. Better to err on the side of giving a second chamber more ‘clout’, I say. So more bills would be blocked – ermm, so what?? How many of the laws passed (or wars declared!) in the last 20 years did we REALLY need, anyway?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      28/08/2011 at 12:45 pm

      Matt: You rather miss the point about what constitutes democracy. Who is to say what we really need?

      • Lord Blagger
        28/08/2011 at 1:44 pm

        That’s no doubt the royal we.

        ie. Who is to say what we (the lords) really need?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          31/08/2011 at 10:48 am

          Lord Blagger: Er, no.

          • Lord Blagger
            31/08/2011 at 2:38 pm

            A tad “We have become a grandmother” Phil.

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            31/08/2011 at 6:05 pm

            Lord Blagger: Fairly obvious that ‘we’ was being applied in the same way as in the US Constitution.

          • Lord Blagger
            31/08/2011 at 6:46 pm

            It wasn’t clear. I put that down to a freudian slip!

            So when you say we, that’s still no doubt MPs and maybe peers

            Where is the mention that the voter gets a vote on the matter?

            None – no democracy at all.

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            01/09/2011 at 10:17 am

            Lord Blagger: ‘We the preople…’

      • 29/08/2011 at 9:56 am

        Lord Norton: You rather miss the point that the House Of Commons is a very approximate expression of democracy … Where is the harm in it being counter-balanced with another approximation of a different kind??

  9. Croft
    26/08/2011 at 1:04 pm

    “To the extent that such a process of determination is not reflected in Parliament’s subsequent pronouncements and actions, then Parliament fails to be fully democratic.”

    You seem to identify that the present system isn’t fully democratic because it too often supplants its own preferences in place of those it knows the public wants. Simultaneously you oppose referendums and other forms of direct democracy that allow the public to challenge the political classes narrow selfinterest. I’d call it doublethink if I wasn’t sure you are broadly happy with the status quo.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      28/08/2011 at 12:44 pm

      Croft: Welcome back. I was about to do a post on my own website (following a reference to you in a poem by Frank W. Summers III) to ask if readers knew what had happened to you…

      My own view is that our system is not one of perfect democracy, but I fear no system is: ours is capable of improvement, but I think what we have is preferable, as a system, to the alternatives on offer. The essential attribute of our present system is accountability, in that if the people’s elected representatives do not, following reflection and debate, translate their wishes into public policy, they are anserable to the people at the next election (and, in practice, before, given the level of transparency that exists in political life). Referendums are overly blunt tools, which do not usually permit various options to be considered, have difficulty creating an equitable basis for debate, and are virtually impossible to confine to the issue that is on the ballot. They also confuse rather than emphasise accountability, as the electors of California have found to their cost.

      • Croft
        30/08/2011 at 12:07 pm

        Poor health has rather kept me offline but I’m trying to pop back in when I can.

        “The essential attribute of our present system is accountability…they are anserable to the people at the next election”

        I rather think this is an illusory answer-arability. We have in the modern age of political parties – with large public subsidy (both direct and indirect) – little likelihood of them going bust or any new entrants gaining more than a notional seat let alone influence. Therefore providing the political class as a whole – across the main parties – come of a view on a particular issue they can effectively remove as an issue the voters can punish or reward upon. In 2010 overseas aid was a particularly glaring example of a policy committed to by all that was clearly without any popular mandate. Your analysis seems to provide no remedy for this problem.

        Clearly many in the political class actually regard this as a good thing and believe patrician like that they know best and the voters must be prevented from making decisions that are ‘wrong’ This was most depressingly clear in some of the recent debates where I saw a number of LDs seriously arguing that we shouldn’t have police commissioners because the public might elect people the main parties didn’t like. Their personal commitment to democracy seemed to make a puddle look deep.

        “Referendums are overly blunt tools, which do not usually permit various options to be considered,”

        Change referendums for elections and I agree. Everything you attack the former for you seem prepared to excuse in the latter!

        • maude elwes
          30/08/2011 at 4:53 pm


          This is a really well thought out post. I liked it! Great thinking.

          Hansard people: Would you be kind enough to remove the similar post to this above, I spelled wrongly and didn’t like it. And as there is ‘still’ no edit button I have no alternative but to beg your tolerance.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          31/08/2011 at 10:58 am

          Croft: Sorry to hear about the poor heatlth. You have been much missed.

          The issue of accountability is the one that distinguishes elections and referendums. Referendums can militate against generating a coherent body of public policy and produce outcomes that are contradictory or mutually exclusive. Think of what could happen if there were referendums on taxes and spending on public services. Government has to be responsible for a range of related policies, in a way that electors cannot be through the use of referendums.

  10. ladytizzy
    27/08/2011 at 8:51 pm

    Reg: Well, yes, obviously referendums…goes without saying. But apart from the right to stand as, vote for, and petition parish, local, national, European representatives, and vote in referendums…what has democracy done for us?

    Omni: Given us public consultations!
    (rip off from Life of Brian…obviously)

  11. Senex
    28/08/2011 at 5:54 pm

    Lord Norton says “In a system of assymetrical [sic] bicameralism in a unitary state it is the members of the elected and dominant chamber who speak for the people and can ensure that they have their way.” What better way to say that Parliament’s is controlling the establishment at the micro level through legislation. But is legislation the only way to control the establishment?

    If we take Cromwell: he abolishes the HoL and its part in the political process. The establishment prior to this had existed at the macro level where the Monarchy could keep a wary eye on it. Cromwell finds himself up against the establishment and he needs to talk with it to enlist its cooperation. So very reluctantly he reinstates the house as an appointed chamber. He can now reason with the power of the establishment on his own terms.

    The problem for Lord Norton is that he is unable to take onboard that very powerful interests are constantly at work within society to the detriment of a greater good and he thinks by passing a law it will control that establishment. It will not!

    If the house is indirectly elected and the tribes or tranches as Lord Tyler likes to call them are established they become the representatives of the establishment at the macro level. The establishment becomes legitimately part of the political process to be persuaded to cooperate and to trickle down that cooperation without legislation. Failing this Parliament legislates. The problem is foreign ‘Barons’ wielding great power outside of this process but within the UK.

    When the Tudor era ends the house numbers less than 100; the establishment is operating in the house at the macro level and its members covert their power. When the Stuarts arrive on the scene they realise that some of the establishment is operating outside of the political process so they create more peers to bring them back into the fold.

    Herein lays the weakness of the hereditary system. The Monarchy is creating new hereditary peers based upon the power and influence of individuals within society. Whilst first generation peers are macro establishment figures the next or succeeding generations are not. This residue coverts power just as the hereditaries of Tudor times did. Everybody misses the point of why we have our second house.

    The American colonists are well aware of the power of the British establishment and when they go about creating the Senate it is derived of many powers and instead those powers are invested in the office of the President. Again these architects miss the real point of a why second house should exist and the establishment is abandoned to do its own thing.

    Now the establishment is controlling Congress and its needs are being given a respectable veneer to the detriment of the people but to the fulfilment of the establishment. The US has no transparent way to bring its establishment within the political process. We have, in an indirectly elected second chamber.

    Sorry, can’t blog during Q4 back in the New Year?

    • maude elwes
      30/08/2011 at 4:48 pm


      This is the best post you have written to date.

      What is Q4? And why would that stop you here?

      • Senex
        31/08/2011 at 5:51 pm

        Last quarter of the year. My eight ball is giving me bad vibes so I’m off!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      31/08/2011 at 11:02 am

      Senex: Your whole point is lost by the very example of the US, where the establishment is as much in the Senate as controlling it. Look at the concentration of wealth and power. Election in the USA has hardly militated against the growth of political dynasties.

      • maude elwes
        31/08/2011 at 3:28 pm

        @Lord Norton:

        The Anglo American Establishment is indeed interesting reading.

        And whether you believe in conspiracy theories on not, the evidence here is riveting. It takes a few minutes to get to the rump, but, worth it.

        Here is an entirely different kettle of conspiracy, ‘Loose Change.’ Also riveting, but, don’t watch it at work as it’s 80 minutes.

        I think it could be called ‘murder on the dance floor.’

      • Senex
        31/08/2011 at 6:39 pm

        “Your whole point is lost by the very example of the US, where the establishment is as much in the Senate as controlling it.”

        But the Senate is elected by the people. When it faces the establishment they see a face that represents the establishment. When it faces the people they see a face that represents the people. Which is it to be? In no way does this engender trust within the US political process.

        The Commons needs to rebuild trust but it never will whilst there is confusion in the public mind as to who represents whom. Give them back a Parliament where the boundaries are clearly stated.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          01/09/2011 at 10:21 am

          Senex: The fact of the Senate being elected does not result in the translation of what the people want into public policy. That is a fundamental part of the problem in the US where you have two elected chambers, able to do deals which favour not the electors but parties and special interests. Trust in Congress in the USA is lower than trust in Parliament in the UK.

    • 01/09/2011 at 3:34 am

      Lady Tizzy,
      The Senate has many unique powers and not the least is confirming Cabiney appointments and treaties. It is the closest thing to formal scrutiny of the executive per se which we have really…

  12. 28/08/2011 at 7:25 pm

    1) The claim seems to be that any bicameral system with two elected chambers is ipso facto less democratic than a unicameral system. That seems to me a strong claim weakly justified.
    2) Gridlock in a system does not necessarily mean it is less democratic, merely less effective. Gridlock only means a system is less democratic on a very strong Rousseauian notion of the General Will.

  13. MilesJSD
    30/08/2011 at 4:34 am

    Lord Norton, you say
    “the essential attribute of our present system is accountability”, but that is limited to the primary sovereign democratic Electorate “sacking” any under-performing representative “at the next election”
    for which we the Electorate have to soldier-on incommunicado for up to five years at a time:

    when what we democratically-need is
    (1) for our submissions* to be non-profit published verbatim, alongside the MPs “takes” and legislation-wordings on them;
    (that key term is “verbatim” = exactly as written by its originator the submitting person/citizen)
    (2) wholesomely effective [as well as verbatimly exact (see immediately above)] accountability**

    and allows his “expert” Lord Tyler to get away with esoteric and loopholey definitions, such as omitting to show what full range and detail of “democracies” have been both constructed and non-profit published;
    and in the ‘ruling’ that
    (‘) Parliament is fully democratic because its laws and policies are determined by the electorate through the decisions of the representatives they chose at properly-constituted and authorised elections(‘)
    *to the MP or to elsewhere in the democratic Hierarchy (vertically) or Egality (horizontally, ‘laterally’ or ‘neighbourly’) Sytem and Network.

    ** All praise to Lord Norton for his words “it is crucial that politicians give a lead not only by words but by actions, including their own conduct”;
    Surely this would be a true Democratic Topic to be ongoingly blogged ?
    But Lord Norton misses issues and good intentions, here contributed by every commenter and replier.

    That is why LOTB, apart from Parliament, is not yet democratic.


  14. Lord Blagger
    31/08/2011 at 6:50 pm

    The crucial point in the context of Lords reform is that what matters is that the outputs of Parliament can be traced to the will of the electorate as expressed through their representatives

    The problem here is politicians lying, either by omission or deliberately.

    If the politician deliberately do the opposite of what they say, we’re stuck. No come back.

    Likewise if politicians hide what they say, and then implement what they haven’t told the electorate about.

    Both need to be made crimes. It’s no different than fraud.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      01/09/2011 at 10:23 am

      Lord Blagger: “If the politician deliberately do the opposite of what they say, we’re stuck. No come back.” Er, no, the comeback is voting them out at the next election.

      • maude elwes
        02/09/2011 at 10:57 pm

        @Lord Norton:

        It takes far too long to reach a next general election when a party is taking the country down a road it didn’t vote for. Take Brown for example. It took three years to eject him. And it was well known the country no longer wanted New Labour and their cause long before Blair stepped down. Which was a ploy to keep the policies of that hideous group going.

        Additionally, when the electors ‘get rid of them’ at the earliest opportunity, they find the new administration follows on where the last group left off.

        Take this coalition. They continuously refer to policies they are committing to as laid down by the previous government which they cannot alter. They are cast in stone they tell us. What then is the benefit of the change in power if they cannot junk what the previous unwanted movement had set up?

        Did they tell this to the public when running for government? No they did not.

        So, the voter sleep walks into the next election without knowing what has taken place behind closed doors which will have to be adhered to by whoever wins. And with each new election we move further into the form of government we didn’t want but can’t get rid of.

        And you all know it. Even if you turn a blind eye.

  15. Lord Blagger
    01/09/2011 at 11:45 am

    That’s a particularly pathetic response.

    The problem is that we are forced to compromise, because of the party based system.

    Take the expenses crimes as a good example. Why should the voters in David Laws constituency have to wait 5 years to get rid of him? [he still hasn’t paid any interest on his ilgotten gains]

    Why should they vote against the policies they may well want to get rid of a politician who lied, handing the seat to someone who will act against their wishes.

    Until you get your head around such problems you won’t get anywhere and for a ‘constitution expert’ its surprising you don’t realise this.

    That’s why I draw the conclusion that you aren’t actually interested in change, you want to preserve you position and money at the expense of the general population.

    Another example is the bundling of criminal peers and getting rid of them, with a bill about electing peers. The later having no chance of getting passed for a long time, so the first gets buried.

    You could of course shock me by introducing a bill with one clause.

    “Peers convicted of a criminal offence will have their peerages revoked.”

    Very simple

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