Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Friday 26 November 2010

Peersing into the future

If you are looking for something to do at seven o'clock this Sunday evening, you might try tuning into the Parliament Channel and watching the debate on the future of the House of Lords.
I was there in the Royal Opera House to see the action when the programme was recorded earlier this week, having been invited because of an article I wrote for Total Politics last year saying that although I had spent all my life demanding an elected Second Chamber, I had now changed my mind.
Not wanting to spoil the excitement for you, I won't reveal how the audience voted but can let slip that it is worth watching if for no other reason than to see the incomprehension felt by Polly Toynbee, a supporter of an elected House, at Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty speaking for the other side.
Fundamentally, the argument is this: Do you believe that voting for representatives is not just the highest but the only expression of true democracy; or do you believe that government is so out of control that you need to have individuals of experience and principle who are not under the thumb of the whips and party machines and who will stand up to the juggernaut, which the Lords did more than 400 times against the last Government.
However much certain peers can be mocked (and rightly mocked), they are far more active in the fight for our rights and freedoms than most MPs.
What is needed is reform but not abolition, which is what the effect of an elected second chamber would amount to. Let's have independently appointed peers, a retiring age, a much smaller number of members and expulsion for those who don't attend regularly. And no buying peerages.
An additional reform I would enact - and which wasn't raised in the Opera House debate - is to strip peers of the titles Lord and Lady. If members of the Upper House were called simply Mr and Ms, those who want to go there purely for self-aggrandisement might change their minds.

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