Watching Scotland: A Bountiful Beleaguered Bra Designer Goes To Lords – Is Reform of the British House of Lords Essential?
“There is only so much negativity a person can take and, now I’ve moved out of Scotland I feel as if a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders.”
So lamented Michelle Mone, a Glasgow born business woman who last year spoke out against the Scottish independence question and received some pretty harsh online backlash from what are commonly referred to as ‘cybernats’ (independence supporters who get down and dirty with their criticisms of opponents of independence usually on Twitter).
Ms. Mone moved away from Scotland as the result of what she complained of as an increasingly hate filled nation. Apparently, a few days ago, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron made a personal telephone call to Ms. Mone telling her she was going to the show – Cameron is appointing Mone to the House of Lords as the freshly minted “Lady Mone”. She is reportedly delighted. Michelle Mone’s politically based call up to the House of Lords has been heavily criticized in Scotland and the jokes are plentiful and good. When was the last time an exasperated Peer who is also a successful bra inventor claimed to have had “a huge weight lifted off [her] shoulders”. Yet, would we view Ms. Mone’s appointment to Lords differently if, instead of specializing in frilly sexy undergarments, she had invented something like a new economic model? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
As it turns out, David Cameron’s appointment of the much beleaguered bra designer to a growing and increasingly targeted House of Lords has stoked the fire of a popular reform movement that is seizing some attention in Scottish politics and gaining play time at the highest levels of government and politics. Reform of the relic-like House of Lords is a long time cross party favorite everywhere but within the House of Lords itself. Both Labour and the LibDems have manifestos that contain various elements of reform. Even the Tories, currently in the majority in the House of Lords, admit a few things probably ought to change.
Now the SNP has challenged the leadership of other out of power British political parties to join in a pledge that their parties will not take up any new seats in the House of Lords (HOL). In his call for cross party support, Angus MacNeil MP (SNP) pointed out that the SNP already maintains a no Lords policy as the party does not see “unelected legislators as a form of democratic governance.”
What David Cameron just did with the appointment of Conservative supporter Michelle Mone was clearly political. Such an action is fully understood within the British system and in fact, specifically provided for in the rules for appointing new members to the HOL. Each party receives a certain quota of political appointments to this unelected upper house of Parliament. Reportedly David Cameron is interested in elevating the number of HOL legislative members from 750 to 1,000. This, for comparison, is within a United Kingdom that is geographically the size of two New York states and sports a tiny fraction of the population of America.
There are currently 226 Conservative peers, 212 Labour, 101 LibDem and 179 crossbenchers. Strange as it may seem, votes matter in this legislative body and David Cameron seems willing to touch off a migration upward in the number of Conservative peers considering House of Commons bills. Will the out of power parties follow suit to keep up numerically or will Labour and the LibDems, like SNP, refuse to participate in an unelected legislative body. Until next time, what say you?