• Statement from the Electoral Reform Society and Politics for the Many campaign for immediate release, 8th November 2019
  • Contact Jon Narcross – Communications Officer [email protected] / 07794728820 for more information or interview bids. 

A Labour peer and other allies of Jeremy Corbyn have joined together to call for a ‘firm commitment’ to scrapping and replacing the unelected House of Lords if Labour wins power.

The call, made in a letter published in the Guardian today [1] argues that “Labour’s slogan ‘for the many not the few’ can only be realised by committing to replacing the unelected House of Lords with a PR-elected scrutiny chamber, representing the nations and regions of the UK.”

The letter, whose signatories include Corbyn-appointed peer Baroness Bryan, former STUC President Lynn Henderson, and Sam Tarry who ran Corbyn’s second leadership campaign, points to the growing dissatisfaction amongst the public for the unelected second chamber – highlighting the growing crisis of legitimacy amongst the UK’s political institutions.

The signatories are backing a call from Politics for the Many campaign [2] to commit to bold reforms 200 years since workers fought for the vote at Peterloo.  

Ahead of the party’s ‘Clause V’ manifesto meeting next weekend, they argue that with a manifesto commitment, a PR-elected Senate of the Nations and Regions can replace the Lords in the first five years after winning power. 

See below for the full text of the letter:
 
Two hundred years since people died for the right to vote at Peterloo, it is an ongoing scandal that most of our Parliamentarians remain unelected.
 
Few could deny that Westminster is broken. Just 4% of people feel fully able to influence decisions in Parliament (BMG 2019). It’s no wonder: politics remains undemocratic and hugely centralised, hoarding power for the few when we need to be sharing it.  
 
More than half (55%) of Lords who have deigned to tell voters their location reside in London, the South East and the East of England – almost 20 points higher than their share of the population. 
 
Labour’s slogan ‘for the many not the few’ can only be realised by committing to replacing the unelected House of Lords with a PR-elected scrutiny chamber, representing the nations and regions of the UK. With a general election mandate from the public, this can be done in the first five years after winning power. 
 
Polling for the ERS shows what a vote winner overhauling this private members’ club could be. With overwhelming cross-party support for change, this is a powerful coalition which Labour must lead.
 
Committing to real reform would show Labour stands for all voters, not a privileged elite. 
 
As trade unionists and progressives, we urge Labour to give a clear manifesto commitment to building a politics for the many, including overhauling the undemocratic House of Lords at last. 
 
Signed – Politics for the Many supporters
Baroness Pauline Bryan, Labour peer
Lynn Henderson, PCS National Officer, former TUC Scotland president
Shavanah Taj, Vice President of Wales TUC
Sam Tarry, TSSA National Political Officer and PPC for Ilford South
Alex Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy 
Holly Rigby, journalist
 
Lynn Henderson, chair of Politics for the Many and PCS National Officer, said:
 
“The movement for change is growing across the Labour movement. As the party prepares to finalise its manifesto for the coming election – we all, as campaigners, trade unionists and activists, are making the case that democratic reform should be front and centre.
 
“Hundreds of people called for a clear commitment to Lords reform in Labour’s policy consultation this week. It’s vital we respond to this moment of crisis in our democracy. Labour can, and must, lead the way to create a politics fit for the 21st century and deliver a revitalised democracy for the many, not the few.”
 
Baroness Pauline Bryan said:
 
“The last few months have demonstrated that the UK Parliament isn’t working. A recent poll found just 4% of people [3] feel fully able to influence decisions in Parliament. Wherever you live in the UK the levers of government are far from voters’ reach.
 
“For a transformative, Corbyn-led Labour government to tackle the huge economic and social inequalities in this country it must also tackle the political structures that underpin it.
 
“Democratic reform is not an optional extra for a bold Labour agenda – it lies at the heart of delivering the socialist policies we need, to move power from London to the whole of the UK.
 
“The place to start in making Westminster accountable is to have a clear commitment to abolishing and replacing the unelected House of Lords.”
 
In March Pauline Bryan published ‘Creating a Constitutional Moment’ through Politics for the Many, which made the case for a new federal settlement for the UK, with a fairly-elected second chamber at its heart [4].
 
ENDS

Briefing on the state of the Lords in 2019 here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/locked-out-of-the-lords-the-state-of-the-second-chamber/

Notes to Editors

Labour’s 2017 manifesto did not commit to replacing the House of Lords in office, saying only: “Our fundamental belief is that the Second Chamber should be democratically elected. In the interim period, we will seek to end the hereditary principle and reduce the size.”

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/07/labour-must-embrace-radical-electoral-reform

[2] Politics for the Many is the trade union campaign for political reform For more information visit: https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/
 
[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/poll-just-4-of-voters-feel-properly-represented-at-westminster/
 
[4] https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Creating-a-Constitutional-Moment-Baroness-Pauline-Bryan-1.pdf 
 

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