Meritocracy has not arrived at the House of Lords just yet, but we can still hope that 2016 will bring some much needed change
This year, there has been an outcry targeted at David Cameron, who has appointed new peers to the House of Lords, despite his vows to try to fix instead of fill the chamber. These new appointments do not represent the Commons ratios and many are prominent donors or unelected candidates which of course has raised the issue of corruption, displaying the direct relationship between money and power.
For those of you who are left clueless by this statement (as I had been), I shall break it down for you. Firstly, a peer is a rank of nobility which can be given to anyone and ranges from baron to duke, so it’s just a term to describe the members. Now getting into the House of Lords used to be hereditary, until 1999 when most of these members were removed and a new act established that you had to be chosen instead. There are several ways to be chosen: the House of Lords Appointments Commission can appoint individuals who they feel have achieved great things and will contribute well to debates; or, working peers can be nominated by party leaders and then chosen by the Prime Minister.
Now the Prime Minister has chosen 45 new peers which Unlock Democracy has disputed, creating a petition to revoke these appointments and his powers. The PM has even previously vowed that he will try to create a balance between the numbers of the House of Lords and its little brother, but it seems that he is actually adding to the problem instead of fixing it. Now there is no limit to the amount of peers in the chamber, and the number currently stands at around 760, making it the second largest house in the world. True, maybe Cameron feels strongly towards ‘the more the merrier’ philosophy, but I doubt this considering that he is a Conservative and the King of austerity. This screams ‘ulterior motives’ and I believe the answer lies in the choice of his merry men …
From the lucky pickings come many prominent donors such as multi-millionaire James Lupton, who has donated over £2.5m to the Conservatives since 2009. Sure, he may have helped them and now needs to be rewarded, but this is not a thank you card or a personalised mug: this is a lifetime contract to being a member of the elite who create our laws. And since we’re on the topic of money, it is well worth remembering that these peers claimed £360,000 of expenses in virtue of not receiving payments, so their ‘voluntary work’ is compensated for with an allowance of £300 … a day. What are they even doing with that money? Using it when the toilet paper runs out? Or making paper airplanes so that they can say that they actually did something that day?
The solution lies in the House of Commons. Sure, it’s not exactly a great representative of our society (unless Britain is mainly white middle-class males) but its democratic system is more up to date — actually voting new members in. This would allow more appointments of individuals who have experience, knowledge and genuine conviction to contribute. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that just because someone has money, they are any better at authorising the laws which run our country … but then again we did elect Cameron.