Most people who watch me on television or read about me know I am a Lord, but very few people actually know what that is or what the House of Lords does in this country. Even when people do know what it is about they think it is a closed shop, full of lots of old men falling asleep in a grand chamber, totally separate from reality. I’m not going to say that there aren’t areas of the Lords that need to improve, but I believe the Lords has a more positive story to tell than its reputation lets on.
The idea that the House of Lords is a closed shop is not entirely accurate. If it were true, a boy from a council estate in Hackney would never have made it to become a Lord. However, we do have some way to go in terms of getting more peers from working class backgrounds and across different areas of expertise. I’d like to see more members with a wide range of experiences that bring something different to the House; like Lord Robert Winston and his expertise in science and innovation, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and her dedication to sport as well as my friend and colleague Lord Waheed Alli who brings a world of knowledge in media and business to debates and decision making. It is so important that we don’t just have politicians representing us in the House of Lords if we are to inspire the next generation of law makers in this country.
I’ve always believed that social media is a powerful tool and over this year we have seen just how powerful it can be with huge part it played in the Arab Spring and the UK riots. I know many politicians, across all parties have taken up the challenge of using social media to communicate their work very well, with Labour Leader Ed Miliband topping the number of followers for any UK politician at over 100,000 but none of them have reached the numbers that I or Sarah Brown or even Piers Morgan have – showing there is still more work to do. Social media means that people can have direct access to me as a Lord and as a businessman. Individuals, campaigning groups and external organisations should be able to contact us and on some occasions, put us on the spot in public forums for the decisions we take on their behalf. It is a brave move for politicians, particularly when they are making controversial decisions, but the way I use social media means there are no barriers between me and the public, with information flowing freely and unedited between the two; this is unlike any other medium for communication has done before.
A big part of the modernisation I’d like to see is what we are attempting to do now, with the promotion of this blog and youtube videos from fellow peers. But this should happen all year round, not just for Parliament Week. It should become a part of everyday political life. We should be looking at the best way to break down barriers between the House of Lords and what happens in people’s everyday lives; we need to get the message across that what happens in our House actually affects what happens in their house.