Because I’m a sad geek who spends far too much time thinking about electoral systems, since last Wednesday I’ve been pondering the question of how to elect members of the Upper House of Parliament. So, assuming that the role of the Upper House is primarily one of review, scrutiny and amendment rather than a primary legislating chamber, here’s my suggestion.
First off, I like the idea that’s been suggested from several quarters of electing by thirds at five year intervals (probably at the same time as European Parliament elections) for a single fifteen-year term. That provides a chamber that’s not going to be as affected by short-term swings in electoral fortune, and single terms mean members will have a degree of independence because they can’t be concerned about their personal re-election.
As for size, I think around 300 members would be sufficient – the total workload of the Upper House would be less than the Commons and restricting the number of members should mean that they can concentrate on the tasks they have at hand, rather than having to make work for themselves. Given that members of the Upper House wouldn’t have the constituency commitments of an MP – especially as they don’t have to seek re-election – there’s even the possibility for it to be seen as a part-time commitment.
So, how to elect them? Well, given that we’re following the electoral cycle of the European Parliament, it seems simplest to use the same regional arrangements as those elections, with each of the 12 regions (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the 9 regions of England) electing an average of around 25 members each, meaning 100 Lords/Senators/Members Of The Upper House get elected each time. I’d also suggest that the allocation of seats to be regions be on a somewhat degressive, rather than strict, proportionality with the smallest regions having 18 members (electing 6 each time) and the largest 30 (10 each time) thus ensuring a balance of voices from throughout the UK.
When it comes to electing them, I would suggest – as anyone who knows me may have guessed by now – that a Single Transferable Vote system is used. However, there is a reason for this beyond my belief that it’s the best voting system, which is that it’s a voting system that encourages candidates to prove themselves as individuals not just as party functionaries, as well as allowing independent (cross-bencher) candidates to compete on a more even playing field. Candidates would actually have to work to get the voters to choose them from amongst their party’s candidates, not just hope to get a high enough place on a list, and voters would have the power to mix and match from amongst party and independent candidates. To go further, one suggestion I would make is that while candidates would be free to campaign as party representatives, party affiliation would not be listed on the ballot paper, making it near-impossible to hide behind the rosette.
Anyway, that’s just my thoughts, feel free to tear them apart in the comments.