I am surprised that my email to our supporters to vote for an elected second chamber in the Power2010 poll has caused such a stir. I can see the headline now - ‘Shock: Unlock Democracy supports an elected second chamber’. Seriously, the fact that one of our priorities is an elected second chamber should be no surprise given that the first thing Unlock Democracy's predecessors Charter88 and the New Politics Network did together in 2004 in the wake of the failed free votes in the House of Commons was to launch ‘Elect the Lords’ to campaign.
We have consistently prioritized Lords reform over the last six years and were influential in delivering the successful vote in the Commons in 2007 for a wholly elected second chamber.
Nor should the fact that we email our supporters to vote in the Power2010 poll be a surprise. We emailed our supporters at the beginning of the vote saying what issues the organisation supported and what our priorities were.
In particular, we urged our supporters to vote for the following:
- Introduce a proportional voting system
- A written constitution
- A fully elected second chamber
- Cap political donations
- Stronger local government
In this we are no different that numerous other organisations and I accept others will have different prioritises.
So why the email on Lords reform specifically? Simple, it was in 6th place, only a few hundred votes behind, and we had a chance to get it into the top five. It is important that it is there because though Lords reform will be in all the party manifestos we know from bitter experience that reform will only happen if pressure is kept up. If the parties are sent the message that this is not a priority even for reformers then it will damage the case for reform.
For me the fact that our Parliament has people in it who are there due to patronage of the great and the good or because they were born into the hereditary elite is a disgrace and must be a priority for reform.
This was not an anti English Votes for English Laws email, simply a positive one for an issue we think needs to be in the top five.
Where I agree with Gareth is that our constitution needs to be discussed in the round, which is why we have led the campaign for a Constitutional Convention. But that idea, like an English Parliament, didn’t make it into Power’s public vote. As for Gareth’s concern that without EVoEL the top ten looks like a Charter88 manifesto – well, as its last Director and its successor's first, that is not a concern I share.