What’s the difference between the House of Lords and the Presidents of the EU? They are all unelected; unaccountable to the people; undemocratic; and paid far too much money.
I intermittently watched some of the recent debates in the House of Lords on the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. To describe the self-indulgent, self-important, self-centred deliberations of this privileged elite as “debates” is a misnomer. For one thing, they all agreed with each other! The electorate was simply treated to a re-hash of all the spurious arguments that played out in the run-up to last year’s referendum. Interspersed with their Lordships’ tired comments were rambling anecdotes of what political roles some of them had played during our membership of the EU, and some even related stories about their families. All fascinating stuff – if it was relevant and enlightening – which it wasn’t. But it made my blood boil that these unelected individuals were being paid up to £300 per day of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash simply to indulge their egos.
It made we wonder why parliamentarians, in both houses, had not discussed the potential consequences of Brexit prior to the referendum. A quick review of the EU Referendum Bill 2015-2016, which laid the foundations for the conduct of the referendum, revealed limited debate and very few amendments to the Bill by either house. Certainly there was no suggestion that a minimal percentage turnout by the electorate be required; or a qualified majority for one side or the other to secure a minimum percentage above 50 per cent. Or, indeed, the setting out circumstances when a second referendum might be necessary.
I asked myself why, if the Brexit referendum was so important, parliamentarians didn’t hold debates on the pros and cons before the referendum? The most logical conclusion is that parliamentarians were so arrogant and so certain that the British people would vote remain, they didn’t consider it necessary to make the Bill watertight or felt any need to discuss the benefits – or otherwise – of staying in the EU.
A common theme throughout the House of Lords discussion was the suggestion that the government should commit to a second Brexit referendum so that the electorate can make an informed decision on the final deal reached with our EU partners, and vote accordingly.
I would definitely support a second referendum – a national referendum on whether to abolish the unelected House of Lords and replace it with a much smaller, elected Upper House – preferably with term limits. One that is fully accountable to the British people. I for one would vote enthusiastically for abolition of the existing outdated and dysfunctional institution.
By the way, the other difference between the House of Lords and the Presidents of the EU is 799 – that’s 805 unelected Lords, less six unelected EU Presidents.
John Maguire is a retired diplomat. He lives in Kelso.