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Sebastian Payne has done well to call into question the continued existence of the House of Lords in its current form (“Abolish the House of Lords to rectify the democratic deficit of England”, Opinion, 22 September).
However, one important reason for this has not yet been mentioned, and that is its negative impact on younger voters (you recently reported on their dissatisfaction with the British political system). The youngsters find little contact with an institution that is so deeply archaic and anachronistic, and that recommends it so little on so many aspects. Let’s start with his name. The concept of “Lord” speaks of a hierarchical view of social status that finds no connection with the aspirations and expectations of the present world. Then there is its function. Much is made of the expert review of government legislation, but only a small minority of members use this expertise. In addition, the Commons committee system already fulfills this function, and if they need more expert advice to do so, they can acquire it on an ad hoc basis at a fraction of the cost of maintaining the Lord.
You must also consider its composition. It is a care home for retired politicians; lobbying for the ruling party, using every opportunity to follow it up with supporters; and a “reward” for financial donors. None of this promotes confidence in its legitimacy or, by extension, that of our democratic institutions in general.
For all these reasons a great verdict is needed – both France and Germany undertook such a revision after 1945, but there was not the same impact as a result of the war in the United Kingdom. We do have a looming catalyst in the form of a change in the monarch, but it is unfortunately unlikely that it will result in a significant change. Why? Any significant change to the House of Lords to lead to something like a regional assembly, with the Commons renamed as a national assembly, would inevitably call into question the role of the constitutional monarchy. Although again, there is no shortage of examples across the entire channel, how this can be achieved. For the time being, no British politician has at least the courage to interfere with this sacred element of our constitution.
London W4, United Kingdom