What Lib Dem members think about an elected House of Lords and directly-elected mayors

by Stephen Tall on January 10, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 660 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results over the next few days.

An 80% elected House of Lords

LDV asked: The Coalition Agreement committed the Government to “a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation”. It is reported that Nick Clegg will present plans for 80% of the new house to be elected under the Single Transferable Vote. Would you be happy with such an outcome?

Here’s what our sample of party members said:

  • 48% – Yes, I think this is the best outcome possible within the Coalition
  • 39% – Maybe, I would be much happier with a 100% elected second chamber
  • 7% – No, I could only accept a 100% elected second chamber
  • 5% – No, I believe the House of Lords should continue to be wholly/mainly appointed
  • (Excluding: Other, Don’t know / No opinion 3%)

Here’s a sample of your comments, starting with those in favour of the move to an elected House of Lords:

The support of such a policy would depend quite significantly on the make up and skills for the role of the retained 20% appointees.

would I be happy?..I feel like ive been waiting 100 years for an elected 2nd chamber, 80% is a bloody miracle…

I am convinced of the utility of STV for the Commons. For a non-constituency-based house, I’m somewhat surprised that a party-list-based system (which I would deplore in the Commons) is not being favoured. Or are there going to be large constituencies? I quite liked the presence of the Law Lords in the Upper house, as they gave a useful perspective and much expertise.

There is a very strong case for indirect election [by elected senators, as now for the remaining hereditary peers] of 20% from ‘the great and the good’ would not stand for a political party.

Although I’d prefer a 100% elected HoL, I’d still be smiling from ear to ear with just 80%

There are those, though, even in the Lib Dems who do not support a mainly/wholly elected House of Lords, and here’s a couple of their thoughts:

Electing the House of Lords gives them too much of a mandate and the possibility of more changes to how parliament operates, allowing them to demand more power.

I have serious concerns about Lords being more answerable to their party and less to their principles and the available evidence. STV would be better than a list, but I’d much rather the second chamber was occupied by experts and not politicians.

I tend to support a wholly or mainly appointed Lords. However, I accept that party policy is for an elected second chamber, and therefore plans for an 80% elected Lords is a significant Lib Dem victory within the coalition.

Directly-elected mayors

Following on from a recent Saturday Debate here on LDV, we asked: The Coalition Agreement committed the Government to “create directly-elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected councillors”. Some people say directly-elected mayors offer a direct link between voters and their council leader, while others say they concentrate power in just one individual and undermine local councillors. What is your view of directly-elected mayors?

Here’s what you told us:

  • 21% – In favour of directly-elected mayors
  • 42% – Against directly-elected mayors
  • 37% – Undecided – neither in favour nor against but agree referendums should be held to allow local people to decide
  • (Excluding Other, Don’t know / No opinion 6%)

And here’s a sample of your comments, first of those in favour:

It’s a useful and stronger democratic link between voters and significant individuals in deciding how the council is run – better than having powerful council leaders that no-one is aware of and who are only weakly accountable; but it should not weaken further the already weak role of councillor.

More visible and accountable figures. It is my understanding that they will only retain most of the same powers council leaders currently have anyway. Plus, with more power comes more accountability. At any rate, good to invigorate local democracy.

The two Lib Dem elected Mayors are inclusive, good and don’t abuse their powers, devolving much down. They also get things done. It’s hard to disagree on principle when we have evidence that it can work well. On that basis, we ought to let local people decide.

And then of those against:

Just as I believe in Parliamentary democracy rather than Presidential democracy, I believe that whilst directly elected mayors can increase a city’s standing they aren’t always good for democracy.

Although it seems a good thing in principle, in practice it seems to mostly lead to vanity-prone candidates with litlle or no benefit to the local community.

Directly elected mayors are a disaster, favouring corruption and shallow populism over good governance.

And finally of those happy to leave it to local referendums to decide:

I am decided – it should be up to local people to decide whether they want one or not.

May be more appropriate in some places than others – happy to let local people decide.

Liberalism allows plurality of choice and through the principle of subsidiarity local people should decide on referendums how they wish to be governed.

  • Over 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 662 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 9th January.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll