Wednesday, March 14, 2007

People's Peers

I've not been following discussions about the House of Lords reform, because constitutional reform is something I think is quite boring, and the discussion often leads into discussions of voting systems, which is even more boring.

One observation, though. Whether the upper house is elected or appointed, I think that we in the Labour Party should make sure that our representatives are not just professional politicians drawn from the political elite - this goes back to the reason why the Labour Party was set up and would also be quite popular. Labour candidates for Westminster are drawn from an increasingly narrow range of jobs - lawyers, lobbyists, full-time politicians, and the 'talking professions' such as teachers and lecturers. There are plenty of good people working in these areas who have made and would make excellent MPs, but it's hard to dispute that these professions are over-represented. Given the different role of the upper house, particularly if starting with a blank slate, getting people from different backgrounds from those who are currently MPs and likely to be selected as Labour MPs in the foreseeable future would be of considerable benefit.

So my suggestion is that people should be banned from being future Labour appointees or selected as candidates for election for the upper house if they have worked, within (say) the last ten years:

For an MP; as an MEP; as an MP; as a lawyer; as a lobbyist or researcher for a public affairs company or charity; as an employee of the Labour Party; as a lecturer; in any other job earning more than £50,000 per year.

This list is based partly on the breakdown of MPs' occupations before entering parliament here, and partly on my own prejudices. It would still leave a potential pool of tens of millions of possible candidates, and wouldn't stop any of the above who are banned from becoming Labour councillors or MPs. But I think that the reason why the Labour Party was set up is as relevant today as it was over one hundred years ago, and some positive action to help achieve this goal does seem needed.


At 4:36 pm , Anonymous james said...

I think you could add Political Officers of whatever union the old AEEU is part of at the time to that list!

At 9:54 pm , Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

I have no desire for peers. When Buckingham Palace is a museum and the President lives in Clarence House, then we can discuss this stuff.


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