EXCLUSIVE: Pauline Bryan explains why she accepted her peerage and calls for abolition of the Lords

Long time socialist activist Pauline Bryan writes exclusively for the Red Robin explaining why she accepted her peerage and calling for the abolition of the Lords

 

“One of Jeremy Corbyn's new peers was last night accused [by a Tory MP] of 'bare-faced hypocrisy' after it was revealed she has demanded the abolition of the Lords.

“In the run-up to the 2015 Election Ms Bryan wrote that she wanted a 'federal republic of Britain: abolish the Monarchy and the House of Lords'.

“Ms Bryan was not available for comment last night but a Labour source dismissed the hypocrisy charge, saying she was committed to replacing the Lords with a democratic second chamber.”

So said the Mail on Sunday.

If the worst thing I am ever accused of is to want to replace the House of Lords with a democratic chamber, then I won’t complain.

I do however owe it to those on the left who not surprisingly question whether it is right to either nominate or accept peerages to explain why.

I was asked to accept a nomination on the basis that a) I would take it on as a job and work with the Labour team; b) that when the opportunity arose I would vote for its abolition.  It was also the important that I was from outside the London bubble. 

It was still a difficult decision to make. Those who know me know that I have been retired for a number of years and have enjoyed that time.  It has allowed me time to work with the Red Paper Collective and develop our strategy for progressive federalism and to have the real pleasure of editing the book “What Would Keir Hardie Say?”  To go back to work and to have to work in London was daunting, but on the other hand, could I turn down the chance to have even minimal involvement in the Labour Party’s fight back?

I am interested in how a second chamber functions and have wondered if the Scottish Parliament suffers from not having a reviewing chamber. Some people think there have been occasions when legislation has been passed that would have benefited from a review by a body not involved in the original framing.  It would not however make sense to include within that body people who inherit their position. But I would also argue against a chamber of ‘the great and the good’. Such a body would most likely reflect the existing elites in our society and have a built in conservative bias. The most obvious means of democratising the second chamber is by direct election.

For the moment, however, I have my eye on the second chamber as a Parliament of the nations and regions of the UK within a federal UK dealing with issues of cross UK relevance.

If the UK had not been in the EU when devolution was introduced in 1999, structures would have had to have been put in place to manage cross UK policies. This wasn’t needed because membership of the EU limited how much divergence there could be between the home nations, as many of the decisions taken in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast were constrained by EU rules and regulations. The different UK nations were obliged to be aligned because of EU membership.  The issue of how to deal with repatriated powers has now highlighted the problem of how different governments can share responsibilities.

The type of devolution that was introduced was based on a form of self-rule. It covers a range of clearly defined devolved powers but does not give the devolved governments direct involvement in areas of reserved powers. If we had shared rule nations and regions would participate in decision-making processes at a UK level in a chamber that could replace the House of Lords.

I would like to think that every Labour Peer would be committed to the abolition of the House of Lords. I will check that out when I get there.

 

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