The Green party’s leader, Natalie Bennett, and Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, have called for their parties to be given more peers in the House of Lords in the dissolution honours list, in recognition of the share of the vote they achieved at the general election.
Despite winning 16% of the total vote between them at the general election, the Greens and Ukip – which each have one MP – make up four of the 557 party-affiliated peers in the House of Lords. One is former Green party deputy mayor of London, Jenny Jones, and the other three defected from the Conservative party to Ukip in January 2007.
“There’s no doubt that the House of Lords is in desperate need of a radical overhaul, but until the upper chamber is elected it should at least see appointment according to national vote share,” said Bennett, who added that “no matter how deeply we disagree with Ukip’s politics, they should also be far better represented in the House of Lords”.
“If the Lords is to retain legitimacy, then it has to have at least a pretence of some sort of proportionality,” said Carswell, the MP for Clacton. “The total number of people who voted Green or Ukip in the general election is greater than the total number of people who voted Liberal Democrat by a long chalk and yet there is a vast number of Lib Dem peers.”
Despite only winning eight seats and 7.9% of the vote in May’s general election, the Liberal Democrats have 102 peers, making up 21% of the party-affiliated membership of the House of Lords. 93% of the Lib Dem parliamentary party is currently made up of peers.
The leader of the House of Lords, Lady Stowell, admitted last month that the Lib Dems could expect to see their numbers in the Lords swell when the new list of peers is published in the coming weeks, saying it would reflect the fact that it was one of two parties to make up the last government.
The dissolution honours list is usually published in the months following a general election and compiled by the prime minister in the last parliament. It often includes peerages for former MPs who retired or failed to get re-elected.
Carswell said that awarding the Lib Dems more peers would be the Westminster system rewarding rejection at the ballot box. “Don’t get me wrong, I happen to like quite a lot of ex-Lib Dem MPs,” he said. “They’re thoroughly nice people, many of them. But the voters said no to them.”
“The Green party has only one peer, though a proportional system would give us 21,” said Bennett. “The Liberal Democrats, by contrast, would be entitled to 44, rather than their 102 and rising. Appointing yet more Lib Dem lords, and ignoring the Greens, would be deeply undemocratic.”
Since the general election, in which the Greens won 3.8% of the vote and Ukip 12.6%, the two parties have shared a platform on a number of occasions to campaign for constitutional reform and both have been outspoken about what they see as the injustices of the first-past-the-post electoral system.
According to analysis from the Electoral Reform Society, had the election been conducted with a system of proportional representation, Ukip might have won 80 seats in the Commons and the Greens 20. The Liberal Democrats would have won around 47 MPs, compared with their current eight, and the SNP would have picked up only about 30 seats, compared with their current 56.
It is the first time in modern political history that a Conservative government has not also dominated the second chamber, as the House of Lords Act 1999 removed the majority of hereditary peers, many of whom were Conservative supporters.
The Lords is therefore likely to be a battleground for the government as Conservative peers are heavily reliant on the support of crossbenchers to outnumber the opposition. The Conservative party has 228 members, Labour has 212 and there are 178 crossbenchers.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Monday 6th July 2015 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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