Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell argues that the House of Lords should be replaced by an elected Senate, as part of a new UK constitution. He outlines three radical, innovative election systems for the second chamber.
In the twenty-first century, it is time that British democracy ditched the unelected, aristocratic past. The House of Lords is a remnant of feudalism, still based on patronage and peopled by the supposedly great and good.
We need, and deserve, a fully elected second chamber – a Senate – to scrutinise and revise legislation from the House of Commons and to hold the government to account. This Senate should, in my view, be made up of members elected by, accountable to, and removable by, the public.
It would, however, be a big mistake to elect the Senate on the same or similar basis to the House of Commons. This would make it little more than a Commons Mark 2.
We need a system of Senatorial election that is radically different, to ensure that its composition does not merely replicate the make-up of the lower house.
This could involve a new election model based on party lists in large regional constituencies corresponding to the existing constituencies that we use for European elections. These big regional constituencies would help to more accurately reflect the regional strengths and weaknesses of the various political parties and give representation to smaller parties that are currently unrepresented or under-represented at Westminster.
Under this system, it could also be a legal requirement that party candidates and their order on the party list should be decided by a secret ballot of all party members in the region, conducted by an independent Election Commission or by the Electoral Reform Society. This would prevent the abuse of the democratic process by party managers putting loyalists and favourites at the top of the party list. Continue reading