Is a reformed and elected Lords a serious ‘come back’ opportunity for the SDLP?

Interesting piece by Brian Feeney in today’s Irish News, pointing out that a recently leaked committee report talks about beefing up the Lords, redding out the poor attenders (of which there are more than a few Unionist reps) and making all new seats amenable to re-election (albeit for a fifteen year period)…

He suggests that if Sinn Fein jumps abstain towards abstention, it is opening up new, winnable ground for nationalism’s zombie party (“life after political death”) in an all NI constituency fought on PR…

His reasoning presumably that whilst it may make sense for the Republican heartland to send a pure message to Westminster, an NI wide constituency will be looking for more parliamentary bang for their buck… And abstentionism is not likely to go down as well with everyone else…

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  • Taoiseach

    Is that how you spell “redding out”? I’m sure that didn’t appear in a committee report.

  • Isn’t that local slang for clearing, as in ‘redding the table’ after dinner. It was in Co. Derry as I recall from old days there.

  • Brian Walker

    In my own quiet way I’ve pointed out the advantages of an (80%?) elected Lords to the SDLP. But don’t let’s hold our breath on it actually happening or any swift change in the persistent attractions of abstention for SF after contesting seats. The problem of en elected Lords coming to rival the Commons seems a near insurmountable obstacle. Good to see they’re keeping the bishops though albeit in reduced numbers.Whatever you might say against them they’re not corrupt.. The Lords is a good place for traditions, even for inventing new ones.

  • London_Irish

    Far to many if’s in that article. Even without a shred of intention of taking up their seats in the Lords (soon to be de facto Senate if Feeney is correct), Sinn Féin know the risk they would be running by not contesting such an election.

  • Drumlins Rock

    would it be fair to “redd out” non-attenders and replace them with abstensionists? Not really. The public won’t thank anyone for another election, espically if it duplicates another another one to an extent. Make it indirect elected, a glorified list system, not that different from now, but with a few limits checks and balances put in place, btw any work of our local version yet? the long awaited civic forum.

  • London_Irish


    Perhaps the electoral method to the old Northern Ireland Senate could be adopted, where 24 of the 26 senators were elected by PR-STV, voted for by the MPs.

    If this system was adopted, it would save the general public a very tedious election, plus if it was a requirement that MPs had to have taken the oath in order to be eligible to vote, it would prevent the possibility of abstentionist Sinn Fein Lords/Senators being returned.

    Using an internal parliamentary system such as the NI Senate system, it would ensure the Upper House reflected the Commons, and if candidates had to canvass MPs for their votes, it might help encourage some participation once they’re elected, in case they wish to seek re-election.

    I acknowledge a number of drawbacks to this system, however, the two key ones being that:
    – The disenfranchisement of the wider population
    – The possibility of a situation arising whereby the Lords would look very much like Seanad Éireann, full of failed MPs and party cronies…then again, not too different from the House of Lords in some respects…

  • SethS

    A totally undemocratic institution that actually does a pretty good job in scrutinizing the executive and legislation – certainly better than most upper houses.

    The perennial problem of how to make it more democratic without diluting the good work it actually does.

  • As I have written at length elsewhere, I’m unimpressed by the current proposals for House of Lords reform and I hope they fail as they deserve to.

    In the event that the reforms go through, NI would elect three seats (or possibly two) to the new chamber every five years for non-renewable fifteen-year terms; I can’t see any reason from the SF theological point of view why they should not treat these seats in the same way that they do the House of Commons constituencies that they hold.

    The SDLP and others would of course be free to argue that a vote for an abstentionist is a wasted vote, but I haven’t noticed that making a lot of difference to the electorate.

    Some time ago I wrote a piece on the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland elections for their respective Senates in 1925, the former a nationwide poll by STV for a single slate of 19 seats, the latter being the first election of the 24/26 Senators by the NI House of Commons since three Nationalists took their seats. Both were a bit of a shambles.

  • Brian,

    Whatever you might say against them they’re not corrupt.

    Given that ex-officio representation of one (and only one!) religious faith in Parliament is a blatant violation of fundamental human rights, you’ll forgive me if I’m not overly impressed.

  • I thought the whole point of upper houses including senates is snobbery by the political classes who don’t want the country’s laws defined by the base wants of the great unwashed, so it seems odd that the Lords [in this case] would change to an elected system. Why bother with it at all other than carbon copy of the lower house?

  • The US has a directly elected upper house, let’s not forget. However it does not function as a revising chamber these days, but as a second primary chamber. This is probably why there is nervousness in official circles about Lords reform.

    am55, the whole point of representative democracy is to keep the legislative process at arm’s length from the “base wants of the great unwashed”, mainly because those wants tend to be fickle and contradictory.

  • Drumlins Rock

    The system we have seems to work, in fact is working better than it has for the last 100 years, challenging but not over ruling the commons, most of the public are quite happy with that, in fact they prob like the fact most members aren’t politician, or else were politicians!

  • PaulT

    The Lords is bad, its the number of Lords, Ladys’, Drakes, and Viscounts that get appointed to EU jobs, remember an MP (someone with a mandate) telling of his/her embarassment whenever these unelected freeloaders are introduced with century old titles to real administrators and politicans.

    Of course they could always be released to travel the world with a large expenses account and hangout with Paedos and crims like our roving Prince without a Portfolio (or job)

    Surely there is a wall somewhere to stand this lot up against and have done with the whole medieval dribble, is there anything more cringeworthy than the opening of Parliament and grown men running around in tights and wigs and perching on woolsacks.

  • Coll Ciotach

    How would this dig out help the SDLP? – if getting reps over to London was such a big saviour their “we will be there” campaign would have been a stormer. The evidence of the ballot box indicates that the nationalist voter does not give a damn about representation in London.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Andrew Gallagher

    ‘The US has a directly elected upper house, let’s not forget. However it does not function as a revising chamber these days, but as a second primary chamber.’

    The Senate has only been directly elected since the 1920s. Prior to that, senators were appointed by state legislatures.

    But it’s not correct to say that the Senate was ever intended to be a ‘revising’ chamber. The framers of the constitution envisaged that the real power would always be located in the (then-unelected) Senate. The main Framers (Madison particularly) preferred this state of affairs, for exactly the reasons you suggest: in Madison’s terms, the ‘minority of the opulent’ had to be protected from the majority. The Senate was key to this, and was designed as such.

    ‘the whole point of representative democracy is to keep the legislative process at arm’s length from the “base wants of the great unwashed”, mainly because those wants tend to be fickle and contradictory.’

    This was the attitude that Madison exemplified, and that Jefferson deplored. Jefferson regarded this attitude as betraying a passionate hatred of democracy. I find it hard to disagree with the great man on that point.