Just weeks after 70,000 people cast their votes to elect two new MPs in the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections, two hereditary peers were gifted the life-long right to make the laws we all live under with just 27 votes between them.
The House of Lords announced yesterday, the 6th July, that Conservatives Lord Remnant and Lord Wrottesley have been elected to the second chamber in a by-election held to fill the vacancies created by the retirement of Lord Brabazon of Tara and the death of Lord Swinfen.
The people of this country should be the only ones who decide who makes the laws we all live under. But these ‘by-elections’ saw a small band of aristocrats decide amongst themselves who has the right to make laws for life – with absolutely no accountability to the public. A situation that is more suited to a private members’ club than our national parliament.
Hereditary peer by-elections
When a hereditary peer dies or retires, fellow hereditary peers from their party or group are allowed to replace them by voting on candidates from a closed list of former hereditary peers or new ones who have inherited their title since the 1999 reforms. Today’s vote saw 12 candidates voted on by an electorate of 45 Conservative peers, with a turnout of 41.
While the government recently abandoned fairer, preferential voting for Mayoral contests, the fairest system around is used for hereditary peer by-elections, the Single Transferable Vote.
Lord Remnant, who was elected with 22 first-preference votes, is a director of Northern Rock whose main interest is in ‘countryside matters’. In his application for the seat, he commented that “with reducing business interests, [he] would commit enthusiastically to the Lords”.
Meanwhile, Lord Wrottesley, a former Winter Olympian in men’s skeleton and self-described “closet tree-hugger”, received five first-preference votes and was elected following five stages where other candidates were eliminated.
Around 10% of seats are effectively reserved for men
The latest by-election means that all of the 92 hereditary peers sitting in the Lords remain men.
While the two new MPs elected in last month’s Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield by-elections will have to face the electorate again within the next two years, these two new hereditary peers now have a life-long right to vote on our laws.
We need to end this unjust and unfair farce, which means the UK is the only country in the world, apart from the African kingdom of Lesotho, who still picks legislators by the circumstances of their birth.
The House of Lords needs to be urgently reformed, starting with scrapping the 92 hereditary peers. This would, at a stroke, slim down our bloated upper chamber which is costing the taxpayer an excessive amount with over 800 unelected peers able to claim £323 a day.
It’s time to end this grotesque charade and for urgent reform to the upper chamber to make it accountable as well as open to the British public. The Lords needs to be made accountable to the public who pay for it and who have to abide by the laws it creates.
Add your name to our call for a democratic second chamber