I have a post up on the Left Foot Forward blog looking at the leaked proposals to abolish the Lords and replace it with an elected "Senate":
How should reformers greet the government’s proposals, leaked to the Telegraph last weekend, to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected “Senate”? The full details of the plans are not yet known, but justice secretary Jack Straw is expected to propose a senate of 300 elected members who must be resident in the UK for tax purposes and can be ejected via a US-style “recall” ballot.
They will serve terms of 15 years with a third of the senate elected at one time, by a proportional voting system, on the same day as elections to the Commons. The Conservatives have condemned the planned announcement as a pre-election manoeuvre designed to present Labour as the party of “reform” and cosy up to the Liberal Democrats in anticipation of a hung Parliament, whilstLib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne accused the government of a “deathbed conversion”.
As with Labour’s last-ditch plan for an AV referendum, it is hard not to agree about the cynical nature of the timing, especially given Labour’s 13 years in office when they had all the opportunities they needed to reform the Lords.
However, the proposals do represent an improvement on previous attempts at reform which would have allowed hundreds of appointed peers to remain. And the fact 15-year terms are being considered suggests Labour may, at last, be thinking seriously about fixed terms for the Commons too. But there are still many unanswered questions.