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From: The Socialist issue 866, 5 August 2015: Stop NHS cuts

Search site for keywords: House of Lords - Government - Parliament - Capitalist - Church of England - Profit system - Church - Capitalism - British politics - Britain

Abolish the House of Lords!

Photo by comedy_nose (Creative Commons

Photo by comedy_nose (Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge)

Clive Walder

The sex-and-drugs scandal and subsequent resignation from the House of Lords by Baron Sewel of Gilcomstoun merely re-confirms that Britain's political elite is rotten and out of touch with the real world.

Sewel paid more money for a prostitute for one night than many families have in spare cash for a month! He owns a 1.2 million house in Aberdeen, and while most people who rent privately are struggling to keep up with the rent, he lives in a 'rent protected' flat in Pimlico, central London.

Sewel's behaviour is seemingly endemic and an indication of the arrogance of the upper reaches of British politics.

The House of Lords is a undemocratic feudal relic, consisting of 670 life peers who mainly got there by pleasing the government that appointed them.

It also has 87 hereditary peers (nearly all men), who were born with platinum spoons in their mouths, and 26 Church of England bishops (no other religion is represented).

Its members can claim 300 a day (more than 46 hours at the minimum wage) just for 'attending'. It is long overdue for abolition.

A 2015 study found that of 303 people nominated for peerages in the period 2005-14, 211 were former senior figures within politics (including former MPs).

Of the remaining 92 appoint-ments, 27 had made significant donations to political parties. This shows how seats in the Lords can be bought.


In theory, anyone can apply to become a crossbench peer. But no doubt the Appointments Commission (which recommends new peers) would reject anyone who had any notions of changing society.

The Tories may no longer have a numerical majority but supporters of capitalism maintain a monopoly of members of the 'Upper House'. Although the government plans to appoint more Tory peers.

Defenders of the House of Lords say that it has a vital role in scrutinising and amending legislation and 'holding the government to account'.

It is true that the government is regularly defeated in the Lords, but its main role in amending legislation is to warn the government that they are in danger of 'overstepping the mark' or provoking social unrest.

It is dangerous to believe that capitalist bodies such as the House of Lords can be a vehicle for social progress or that it wouldn't use the same powers to sabotage socialist legislation passed in the House of Commons.

The House of Lords is part of the capitalists' armoury that protects the profit system and, consequently, needs abolishing.

However, this on its own isn't enough as every other capitalist country operates without such a medieval relic. We need elected workers' representatives in parliament. But for fundamental social change to come about we also need independent working class movements outside parliament.

Abolition of the House of Lords is an important step in the democratisation of politics.

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