Publication: Guardian (London), Letter-to-the-editor
Title: Radical reform for the second chamber
Date: August 14, 2006
By: Charles Scanlan
Could Billy Bragg explain why he thinks it "radical" to advocate an elected second chamber when the current crisis of our democracy stems from the manifold failures of our elected first chamber (A last chance to be radical, August 9)?
The real problem is not the ridiculous rump of hereditary peers - it is that our elective party system has thrown up a professional political class which not only has its own distinct interests but which is more beholden to corporate, media and other lobbies than it is to the electorate.
A truly radical solution would be to replace the House of Lords with a citizens' assembly chosen by random selection from all members of the public willing to serve for a fixed term. That would really "reinvigorate political participation by bringing fresh perspectives to Westminster".
There is, of course, no possibility that the political establishment would even entertain such a surrender of power and patronage.
That is why, on all questions of constitutional reform, we should follow the recent example of British Columbia, where consideration of a new voting system was entrusted to a citizens' assembly, whose recommendations were then put to a popular referendum. In that instance, the local politicians had the good sense to hand back this power to the people. If our "representatives" prove unwilling to do likewise, there will need to be a grassroots reassertion of popular sovereignty.