Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Reforming the Lords

Apparently lots of UK bloggers are posting on the subject of reforming the House of Cronies (ahem, Lords) today, in fulfilment of an online pledge. Tim here, Chicken Yoghurt here.

Reading some of the posts, I was struck by the thought that the biggest problem with both houses of parliament is the fact that they are in London. This the cause of so many of the things that are wrong with the system - the high cost, the whipping system, the cliques, the plotting, the representing of party ahead of constituents.

We could think about moving the Lords away from London but, whereever it meets, the party whips, the lobbyists and the corruption will follow. You might get a bad system for less money, but that's about it.

So here is another idea: the House of Lords will not actually meet at all. Members will remain in their constituencies. Debates will be held on a blog to which any member could contribute. You could soup the software up a bit so that constituents could post comments and feedback to their representatives, as well as contributing to the debate themselves in the way that the They Work For You site does. Because the real debate would be moving at blog speed, the representatives could actually act on some of points raised by their constituents, and feed it into the main debate.

Day to day, our representatives would meet only the people who should be most important to them - their constituents. The party managers would be a voice at the end of a telephone - much easier to ignore. Members would therefore be much freer to act in their constituents' expressed interests rather than following sheep-like the instructions of the whips.

Committee hearings could also take place online, although I wonder if representatives would prefer to see the whites of the eyes of the people they are grilling. If so, we could let them attend Westminster once a month or so.

As well as freeing our representatives from the tyranny of party managers these changes would open up the profession of political representative to a whole host of people to whom that role is currently denied - namely people who hate living in large cities. Our representatives would suddenly be so much more, er, representative. Particularly as they would all suddenly become members of one of the fastest growing sectors of society - teleworkers.

I think you would also get a better class of person involved - more normal; less grasping. You could imagine people of all sorts of backgrounds suddenly standing for election. People with a family (but no nanny). Poor people. People who can think for themselves. Businessmen. Bloggers. I am drawn particularly to the idea of Lord Worstall striking down repressive legislation from his Quinta, a glass of Dao at his side. The world would be a better, a more civilised place.

Elect the Lords by all means. But then burn their Lordships' house to the ground and send them all home.