House of Lords

Creative Commons: vgm8383

There is “one practical question: where does power lie…how can it be attained by the workers?” Nye Bevan, 1952, ‘In Place of Fear

For too long, Westminster’s political system has been for the few, and by the few. Nowhere is that clearer than in the unelected House of Lords.

Today, nearly 800 Lords – including over 90 hereditary aristocrats – can claim £305 a day tax-free, to vote on our laws for life. They can delay legislation, change laws, and use our Parliament as their personal palace.

Free from the scrutiny of the ballot box, we have seen scandal after scandal in this outdated second chamber. Millions of pounds are claimed in expenses each year by Lords who barely contribute. Many have a web of business interests, with peers given almost total free rein to lobby on behalf of others. And we have no way of kicking them out. Now a campaign is growing to fix the rot.

Polls show two thirds of voters want to scrap and replace the Lords with fairly-elected representatives. All progressive parties – including Labour and the Greens – are in theory dedicated to an overhaul. But we’ll have a fight on our hands – power is not easily given away. We need to be ready.

Where people have won change, it has been through struggle and reforming the rules of the game before they could change society itself.

From the Chartists pushing for universal suffrage, to the Scottish TUC’s role campaigning for a Scottish Parliament, trade unions have often been at the forefront of demands for a democracy that puts working people at the centre.

We need our unions to adopt a clear policy to ‘Scrap and Replace’ the unelected Lords with a revising chamber that represents all the UK – not a tiny elite.

With this understanding, we’ve launched Politics for the Many, the trade union campaign for political reform.

We believe change comes through people joining together – in unions, in parties, in campaigns – to say ‘enough is enough’.

In 2019, we will commemorate the Peterloo massacre that saw working people lose their lives fighting for the democratic rights we hold on to today.

Today, there is a new democratic frontier for trade unions in Britain: reforming Westminster’s creaking establishment.

How you can help

Can you pass this union motion in your branch? (We can help or may be able to send a speaker – get in touch).

We need motions to get onto conference floors this summer so we can build the pressure for change:

[Conference believes that] To secure a politics to favour the many and not the few, we need an overhaul of Westminster’s broken political system.

From an unelected Lords to London-dominated institutions, the UK’s undemocratic constitution is stacked against working people.

Long-lasting change is needed to ensure economic and social justice for the whole of the country – and to ensure it lasts.

Labour and the vast majority of voters want to see Westminster’s elite-dominated politics overhauled to work in the interests of working people and the trade unions who represent them (BMG Research, September 2018).

Yet we have an unelected House of Lords that behaves more like a private members’ club than the revising chamber we need.

If power continues to be hoarded by an unelected elite in Westminster we cannot achieve social and economic change and advance the goals of trade unions and working people across all parts of the UK.

In the 200th anniversary year of the Peterloo massacre – marking the Chartists’ proud fight for real democracy – we must carry on that unfinished struggle today.

This union agrees that:

The House of Lords must be abolished and replaced with a fairly-elected Senate of the Nations and Regions, to strengthen the voice of all parts of the United Kingdom and give us a revising chamber for the people.

A constitutional convention to look at wider reform of our state and politics to make it fit for the 21st century and to ensure that the people have a say in the way they are governed.
These must be done as a priority to ensure the gains of a progressive government can last.

We cannot build socialism from within the feudal relic of the Lords. It’s time for our movement to make a bold commitment to real democracy.

Join Politics for the Many get in touch: politicsforthemany@gmail.com

About Nancy Platts

Nancy Platts is a Labour Councillor in Brighton & Hove and was previously Jeremy Corbyn's trade union advisor.