John Strafford is the author of Our Fight for Democracy – A History of Democracy in the United Kingdom.
One of the key features of democracy is that it is a system of government of the people in which the people exercise power. This is done directly or indirectly through their representatives and by a process in which the will of the majority is determined. The House of Lords exercises power and yet the people have no say in its composition, so it is not representative of the people (43% of the members went to just 12 private schools). This cannot be right and for more than a century prominent Conservatives have recognised this and called for it to be changed.
The Conservative Party has a proud tradition of constitutional reform. From the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 to Disraeli’s Second Reform Act of 1867; from the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928 which gave votes to women at the age of 21, to the Life Peerage Act of 1958, Conservatives were in the forefront of reform. The one reform which has eluded the Party is that of House of Lords reform.
A century ago Winston Churchill said that the Upper Chamber “must be based upon the roots of the whole body of parliamentary electors”. Its members should be elected by “very large constituencies” to differentiate them from MPs.