Daily catch-up: After all these years I realise that Michael Foot was right

The former Labour leader described an appointed House of Lords as a seraglio of eunuchs

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The Independent Online

I agree with Jeremy Corbyn about abolishing the House of Lords, I wrote in The Independent on Sunday. Although I prefer to think of myself as agreeing with Michael Foot, who supported the retaking of the Falklands, against Corbyn, who didn’t

I used to favour an upper house elected on a list system so that the share of the vote for each party could be represented nationally. This would make it more worth while to vote in safe seats, because all votes for a party would count. And it would represent Ukip and the Greens in proportion to their total vote.

But the present House of Lords is, like the Commons, a case of disproportional representation. After last week’s new peers, the party shares are Conservatives 31 per cent, Labour 27 per cent, Lib Dems 14 per cent. (Compare the UK election result, 37, 30 and 8 per cent.) Plus 27 per cent of Crossbenchers, bishops and non-affiliated peers, and 2 per cent other parties.

Anyway, list systems are patronage incarnate: they reward people who can operate the party machinery, and in the House of Lords a list system would simply reinforce the existing system. The higher positions on the list, which would guarantee election, would be in the gift of the party leader.

It might be possible to devise rules for “open” lists, which would allow the voters to express preferences between candidates on the lists, region by region, but then we would be back to the problem of a House with rival democratic mandate to that of the Commons.

Although Jesse Norman and his fellow Conservative rebels were guilty of risking their party’s interest (Nick Clegg responded by blocking more equal constituency boundaries, worth about 20 seats to the Conservatives), they were right to scupper the coalition plan for Lords reform on its merits. The coalition wanted four-fifths of the House of Lords to be elected, serving 15-year non-renewable terms. The number of peers was to be cut from 826 to 450. The chamber would have kept the title of House of Lords, after alternatives such as Senate were rejected.

Peers would have represented European Parliament super-constituencies, one third of whom would have been up for election every five years. Of the remaining 90 members, 12 rather than the current 26 would have been Church of England bishops. The other 78 would continue to be appointed and all hereditary peers would have been removed.

• People want power to be devolved from the UK level, but they don’t agree on where it should end up. They don't like the voting system but they think any alternative would be worse. They don’t like the House of Lords because they think people who make laws should be elected. And they think we would probably be better off if we left the European Union. I report on “People and Power”, a survey carried out by Opinium, in The Independent on Sunday. The survey report is here, and the full tables are here.

• My Top 10 Covers Better Than The Original in The New Review, the Independent on Sunday magazine, was controversial. Many, many more nominations were received: I hope to come back to the subject shortly.

• And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

“What are these markings on the map?”

“They’re hill areas.”

“Yeah they’re very funny, but what do they mean?”

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