Campaigning group urges new Lord Speaker to abolish aristocrat elections

The Electoral Reform Society called resuming the by-elections a ‘sign of very warped priorities’ amid the coronavirus crisis.

Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster

An organisation promoting electoral reform is urging the new Lord Speaker to abolish a controversial system of replacing hereditary members in the House of Lords.

The Electoral Reform Society called resuming the by-elections a “sign of very warped priorities” and urged Lord McFall of Alcluith, set to replace Lord Fowler as Lord Speaker, to take action on the “absurd practice”.

The system used to choose which aristocrats get to sit in the upper chamber has been put on hold since last March in the light of the coronavirus crisis.

However, House of Lords authorities have announced that by-elections are set to resume, with four places to be filled by the end of July ahead of the summer recess.

Hereditary peer by-elections have faced widespread criticism because of the exclusive male-dominated list of eligible candidates and the limited number of people able to vote.

The 92 hereditary places in the Lords are unaffected by steps to curb the size of the unelected chamber, with contests used to fill vacancies caused by the death, resignation or expulsion of hereditary peers.

Senior director at the Electoral Reform Society Willie Sullivan said: “Hereditary peers are a testament to the House of Lords being a private members’ club for an elite few.

“Removing these by-elections would be the first step in a package of reform desperately needed to ensure we have a scrutiny chamber that is fit for purpose, rather than this elitist mockery of democracy.

“These so-called by-elections must be the last. It’s time politicians – including the new Lord Speaker – took the steps needed to abolish this absurd practice and give the public a say over who sits in our second chamber.”

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