Barry Foulkes is a party member in London and suggests that David Cameron should take his cue on Lords Reform from the former Liberal leader, David Steel.
One little noticed ‘event’ in the latter part of 2008 was the introduction by Lord Steel of a Private Member's Bill on the issue of House of Lords “reform’’. In presenting to their Lordships a Bill which seeks to retain an appointed Upper House but help this most ancient and reverent of chambers sit more comfortably in a modern democracy, Liberal Democrat peer David Steel has perhaps provided David Cameron a very ‘conservative’ solution to an almost perennial unanswered question.
Without re-hashing the arguments for and against a wholly appointed chamber, those who seek change in the name of ‘’modernity’’ and so-called ‘’democracy’’ should take heed of the old Conservative maxim, “to change what is worst and conserve what is best”. A House which boasts retired Generals, Admirals, Cabinet Secretaries, eminent academics and leading figures from every sector of our economy should surely be considered worthy of “preserving what is best”. That these figures are not inhibited by the sinister ‘Whip’ but are able to freely contribute their expertise and ‘institutional memory’ (West Wing fans?) to the public debate is something that we should consider ‘a good thing’.
For advocates of an elected chamber, there is a point of principle – nothing wrong with that, far from it – but as such, neither side is likely to convince the other of the respective merits of their case – to agree to disagree is as far as we shall get. However, if the terms of debate are to be set around a House as currently constituted, then in the true spirit of ending “Punch ‘n’ Judy” politics, David Cameron as Prime Minister should welcome David Steel’s late conversion to the cause of an appointed chamber, re-visit his Bill and allow it full passage through both Houses of Parliament.