Politics for the Many

New research reveals that the House of Lords is becoming even more unrepresentative of voters – in contrast to the elected Commons – as calls grow for an overhaul of the chamber.

The majority of Lords (57%) attended private school – up eight points from 2014, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust [1]. Just seven percent of the Brits attend a private school. 38 percent of peers attended Oxford or Cambridge universities.

Over the same time period, the proportion of privately-educated MPs dropped four points to 29%.

Campaigners Politics for the Many are renewing calls for a fairly-elected second chamber that is more representative of the nations and regions of the country.  

Electoral Reform Society research in 2017 showed that the House of Lords continues to suffer a crisis of representation: just 26 percent of peers are women, lower than any other political institution in the UK, while 141 peers are over 80 years of age (18% of members), compared to just 6.6 percent of the UK’s over-21 population [2].

Hundreds will come together to mark 200 years of the Peterloo Massacre – a landmark in the fight for an extended franchise – in August [3] to set out a vision for democratic reform. Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister Jon Trickett will be delivering a major speech alongside academics, activists and campaigners.

A petition to abolish the House of Lords received 170,000 signatures last July [4] but was dismissed by the government, who said they would show ‘restraint’ in appointments. 

In March, hereditary peers clubbed together to block a minor reform effort to end hereditary peer ‘by-elections’ – guaranteed representation for aristocrats [5]. 

Lynn Henderson, spokesperson for the Politics for the Many campaign and National Officer of the PCS union, said:

“These figures show in stark terms the eye-watering levels of privilege in the second chamber. It beggars belief that while we talk about improving social mobility, the unelected Lords is becoming even more out of touch with the public – a haven for the privileged, while our elected MPs are looking more like those they represent.  

“When Lords are appointed based on ‘who you know’, party donations and big business interests, it’s no surprise it fails to reflect the society we live in. Voters have no chance of kicking peers out. At a time when anger at politicians and lack of democracy is growing, these figures show the need for an overhaul of this private members’ club.

That’s something we will help set out as we mark 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre – where many died fighting for an extension of the franchise. “This is What Democracy Looks Like” will look at the rotten state of democracy in the UK – and what we can do to improve it [note 3].

“For too long, Westminster’s political system has been for the few, and by the few. It’s time to build a politics for the many. We need a fairly-elected second chamber that represents the diversity and talents of the whole UK.” 

Peers are able to claim £305 a day tax-free each day they attend, plus travel costs.


Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Elitist-Britain-2019.pdf

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/the-high-cost-of-small-change/#sub-section-7

[3] Tickets are available here https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/event/this-is-what-democracy-looks-like and find out more about the Politics for the Many campaign here https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/.

[4] https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/170686

[5] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/how-hereditary-aristocrats-are-still-trying-to-call-the-shots-in-parliament/

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