'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Anti Lords Reform arguments seem facile and contradictory. They've got me worried.

The two central arguments that the opponents of a democratically elected House of Lords are putting forward are beginning to emerge and it seems to me they are essentially contradictory.

Argument one: you get smarter people in The House of Lords because the establishment pick the cream of the crop.

Yes, all hubris aside, they really are saying that. Unlike the House of Commons, their argument goes, the Lords is full of experts on everything under the sun, and it is only by a process of appointment and patronage that we can expect the great and the good to deign to consider the great matters of state. We can't expect them to stand for election, and if we did, they wouldn't bother, so an elected House of Lords would be intellectually inferior to the current one. By extension, they must believe of course that the House of Commons is less able to judge the weighty matters of State, as it is elected. Which curiously brings us on to Argument two...

Argument two: an elected House of Lords would threaten the primacy of The Commons

While argument one holds that its make up makes it the intellectual and superior house, argument 2 is that it mustn't undermine the primacy of the House of Commons and a democratically elected Lords might do that - because it's members actually had to make a case for being there, rather than just being granted tenure. Which is odd really. You'd expect a house full of superior talent to be the one threatening The Commons, wouldn't you?....

So, two weak and contradictory arguments which knocking back should be a doddle. You'd think, wouldn't you...


Let's cast our minds back to the AV referendum and the arguments made by the 'NO' campaign. AV will cost a fortune, vote YES and babies won't get incubators, AV is incredibly complicated, AV is undemocratic, AV allows losers to win et al. These arguments too were facile, false, often contradictory... But they were expressed simply, consistently, and frequently. And the message got through.

So let's not fall into the same trap again. We must take these two central arguments and refute them objectively, unemotionally (let's not compare the other side to the Nazis again) and simply.

And we need to make the central planks of our own argument just as straightforward and campaign for them in the same way.

Let's not make the 'they're liars and lunatics' mistakes of the AV referendum campaign all over again.

PS. If you're keen to help the grassroots campaign for Lords Reform then do follow this link to the campaign's Facebook page. Lots of good information to be gleaned.

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