Leading article: More reason to reform the House of Lords

The Goodwin fiasco must concentrate minds both inside and outside Parliament

Share
Related Topics

Nick Clegg may open himself up to charges of opportunism if he attempts to use the issue of Fred Goodwin's knighthood to spur reform of the House of Lords. But if anything constructive can be wrung from the charade of one person held humiliatingly accountable for the failures of the many, it would be worth the risk. Indeed, any opportunity to give constitutional reform the attention it deserves should be grabbed with both hands.

As much as anything, the debacle over Mr Goodwin reveals a gross inconsistency. While this newspaper would argue that the former banker should not have been made a scapegoat by stripping him of his gong, it is nonetheless right that such an option is available. Meanwhile, peers of the realm not only honoured by the state, but given power to affect its government, face no such censure. A life peer is exactly that. Regardless of their conduct – one need think no further than the prison sentences of, say, Lord Archer, or Lord Black – there is no mechanism by which to remove them. Suspended, yes; expelled, no. Somewhat bizarrely, they cannot even resign. This must change.

The Deputy Prime Minister's plans for reforming the Upper House, including measures for expulsion and resignation, are therefore to be welcomed. The question, however, is whether Mr Clegg's efforts will be any more successful than all those that have gone before.

It is true that the constitutional reform Bill, to be in included in the Queen's Speech this spring, is set to dominate the coming parliamentary programme. It is also true that the Prime Minister has committed to support the plan. But there are whispers in Westminster that David Cameron's backing may not prove as wholehearted as his promises suggest. And, given his last-minute politicking over the other Liberal Democrat priority – the alternative vote referendum – it is not unduly cynical to wonder if Mr Cameron may baulk at allowing as dry an issue as Lords reform to take up so much parliamentary time.

Given the fracas over Mr Goodwin, such vacillation would be a fine chance wasted. Mr Clegg proposes a slimmed-down upper chamber with 80 per cent of its members elected, the rest appointed, and all sitting for a single term. It is a sensible plan that deserves support. After a hundred years of attempts at reform, it is a disgrace that there are still 90 hereditary peers voting on British laws. That the majority of the other 700 members of the Lords are government appointments is little better, entrenching a system of patronage and cronyism that is wholly unacceptable in the open society Britain purports to be. Unsurprisingly, efforts to change the status quo have struggled in the face of peers' unwillingness to vote for their own disenfranchisement. The Goodwin fiasco must concentrate minds both inside and outside Parliament and bring the anachronism to an end.

There is another lesson, too, in Mr Goodwin's recent dishonour. Maintaining that Fred the Shred should have kept his knighthood is one thing, supporting his receiving it in the first place quite another. There is much to be said for a system whereby extraordinary contributions to society can be publicly recognised. Recipients might reasonably include philanthropists, fundraisers, volunteers, even civil servants. It is hard to see how those who run banks, manage football teams, or present television programmes qualify. Put simply, they should not. Such people are already both recognised and rewarded.

That Mr Goodwin's humiliation has been so unedifying a spectacle is even more reason to put it to good use. Only the pruning of our sprawling and discredited honours system, and the hauling of the House of Lords into the modern world, will do.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there