House of Lords & Open Democracy

May 12, 2009

Something not about expenses for a change…

I was speaking recently at a “parliamentry debate”-style night hosted by a dialectic society. One of the mock bills brought forward sought to elect the house of Lords entirely by lottery of national insurance number. You can read more about this kind of proposal would work in a book by Anthony Barnett and Peter Carty.

The idea we debated was to create in the house of Lords a very large citizens jury, within the protection of the Parliament Act. They would remain an amending body, brought together from all walks of life, a sample normalised in such a way as to be representative of the national insurance pool.

“Its not for the shoemaker to decide whether the shoe fits” was one of the quotes of the night.

Those taking part in the exercise would be paid a salary and serve for a year.

At no point in the legislative process do the subjects of legislation have the power to amend an existing bill – this would change that, and power is the right word.

It would also enable those who have served in such a second chamber to use the experience to better fulfill their maximum potential in the democratic process – more engagement with less apathy.

Most of all it would achieve what must be the goal of any progressive government: making peerages affordable for the working class.

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