Nationalists face decision on electing Lords

At last! A firm-sounding but gradualist plan for an elected second chamber at Westminster, based on the government’s White Paper, if the Guardian story comes to pass. The Labour cabinet seems to have sorted out an internal wrangle at the last minute. Just as well, as the Lib Dems might have sorted it for them. Under leaked Labour plans a new House of Lords probably called the Senate has been thrust higher up the agenda in the present storm of reform.

It would come into being by 2014. To begin with, it would be two thirds elected with a review after 10 years of the remaining one third appointed, including half the present number of Church of England bishops. Among the appointed element there would be places in the meantime for other faith representatives.

As the Lib Dems are strongly in favour of an elected Upper House, this looks a runner in some form, despite some Conservative doubts which staggered elections might allay. It’s powers would be the same as at present to minimise clashes with the Commons : to revise and delay. With these powers, it does a better job than the Commons.

For NI nationalists it’s a no brainer. I guess something like 6 seats to start with, rising to 9 after 10 years for a fully elected 300 member chamber would be allocated to Northern Ireland. I can imagine already the game planning over the open list electoral system proposed. The title ” Lord” was always an inhibitor for the SDLP but the problem would be lifted.

No party can afford not to stand for election. SF would no doubt face down extra criticism over their abstentionism. And yet… if he retires from the front line – if he ever does – Lord Adams of Beechmount doesn’t sound quite right. But wouldn’t Senator Adams go down a treat!.

Each member of the elected second chamber would be allowed to serve for three electoral cycles.
They would be elected from 12 electoral regions, with nine in England and the other three in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The regions would be drawn up by May 2012

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London