Abolishing The House of Lords

Paul Marks argues for doing away with the House of Lords on the grounds that recent reforms have taken away its heritage and that Wednesday’s inevitable move toward elected membership will make it at best redundant with the Commons and at worse divisive.

Indeed, the Lords have become simultaneously an anachronism and plainly weird. The UK is for all intents and purposes cabinet democracy, so having some odd collection of plutocrats, bishops, and political appointees sitting in an upper chamber is rather absurd. This is especially the case with the Lords Spiritual, which simply have no place in government in a modern society. The only remaining important function of the Lords is that of judicial review, performed by the Law Lords rather than the House as a whole, but that will largely be obviated by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

It will be interesting to see what the combination of these wholesale reforms of British political traditions and the encroachment of the EU have on UK politics over time.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Uncategorized, US Constitution, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Maybe if they adopted our Constitution, certain of our Supreme Court justices might actually take notice of our Constitution.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not a Briton nor a subject of the Queen and, consequently, I have no meaningful opinion on this subject (and, further, think that foreigners should butt out just as I think that non-Americans have no meaningful contributions to make on our form of government).

    My only comment is that the House of Lords is an official recognition of plutocracy. Have you looked at the members of the Senate lately? How is official recognition of plutocracy worse than de facto recognition of plutocracy?

  3. Billy says:

    Abolish the House of Lords? It’s not just a legislative body, you know, it’s the High Court of the UK, analogous to our Supreme Court.

    Such a suggestion can only come from a place of profound ignorance of the British system and tradition. Ever heard of reform?

  4. James Joyner says:

    It’s not just a legislative body, you know, it’s the High Court of the UK, analogous to our Supreme Court.

    See paragraph two, sentence the last, of my post.

  5. I’ll leave it to the stay at home sons of Albion to debate the merit of this idea. Their country, they can run it how they wish.

  6. John Burgess says:

    Call me a traditionalist, but I still prefer bicameral parliaments, with one of them somehow insulated from the winds of populism.

    Can you imagine letting the House of Representatives be the totality of Congress?

  7. James Joyner says:

    I’m for bicameralism, too, in a constitutional system with limited government. The British system, though, virtually gives carte blanche to Commons.

    Marks’ argument, which I find persuasive, is that there isn’t a strong rational for a separate basis for an elected Lords. In the American case, the states were, originally at least, states with a substantial claim to sovereignty. There’s not really an analogue in the UK unless you count Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Aligning power that way would have some interesting consequences, though.