Friday, February 24, 2017

Why Does UK Govt Bully The House of Lords?

As the House of Lords take to scrutinizing the Brexit-related Article 50 Bill earlier this week, government bullying machine and tactics swung into action trying to undo the upper house. This desparate attempt to scupper the Upper Chamber saw Prime Minister, Theresa May decide to sit in and watch its debate of the Bill in what appears to be a real-time coarsion to get what she and her govt wants: as if to say, "do it or else..." What exactly did the Prime Minister want to achieve by such imposing behaviour?

It is as if the House of Lords has no legitimacy to sit let alone scrutinize the govt. Yet, in actual sense, it is not a gathering of impostors, nor of rebels trying to attack or unseat the govt. It is a Chamber constitutionally established with legitimate roles to play under the constitutional monarchy system of the UK.

And to think that the Lords, is largely and soley filled to its brim by each sitting government, makes you wonder where the animosity is coming from. In fact, at the level govt ministers and its mecenaries brief against the Upper Chamber, you'd be hard pressed to believe they have any hand in its make-up and continuous re-stocking.

But take a look at the membership, it is mostly politicians than any other professionals. In fact, it is quite right to call it a 'retirement home' for former career politicians. Of the current 805 members of the House of Lords (ref: Parliament's website), the distribution is;
  • 252 = Conservatives (the ruling party)
  • 202 = Labour (the Opposition party - previous ruling party)
  • 178 = Crossbenchers (non-political party members; does not include Bishops and other non-party affiliated)
  • 102 = Liberal Democrats (formerly the third largest party in Parliament until 2015; currently SNP)
  • 31   = Non-political party affiliated too but does not belong to Crossbenchers. 
  • 26   = Bishops (Otherwise known as Lords Spiritual)
  • 14   = Others (mainly representing other smaller parties. The SNP does not nominate peers).
Yet the same govt that fills up this Chamber with party members and donors, goes about briefing how it is unelected. The govt tries to undermine the work of the Chamber through bullying, propaganda and threat to abolish or reform it. The later is never successful due to using the Chamber as a reward scheme. This is hypocrisy.

This behaviour by the govt - whichever it is - diminishes the constitutionally legitimate role of the House. A role which helps mitigate the dictatorial tendency of the govt of the day. A role which is entirely useful and critical, and at a very cheap price too for that matter.

In the last parliament, 710 members of the House spoke in debates and 779 voted. So to go about throtting the myth that they do nothing or that most did not show up, is ridiculous and deceitful. The Lords is better as unelected; but appointment system should be reformed to stop it being used as a reward package by sitting Prime Ministers. If made elective, it will be hijacked completely by the same political parties whom we have no drop of trust in any more. And we know that independent candidates barely ever win elections; so we will see the make-up above turn to just 2 parties, with Bishops (who does not vote and if they're allowed in) and small number of other parties.

Members of the House of Lords are not paid salary and are only entitled to an attendance allowance of £150 or £300 for each sitting. At this rate and considering that the Chamber reviews almost every Bill there is, it is absolutely cheap. In fact, if MPs are put on such 'pay-as-you-attend' system, we'd be better off.

So demonizing the House of Lords is not useful. It is bullying. And the electorate must not be blindfolded by myths to accommodate such.

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