In recent weeks, a story made news headlines claiming that British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has unveiled new plans to move the House of Lords to the Northern city of York. In an attempt to liberate us from the consuming vulgarity of London influence, this has unfortunately been met with both heavy criticism and wide scepticism. But surely spreading the influence of politics in a bid to give the North more autonomy should be welcomed.
The House of Lords was established in 1801 and forms the second chamber of Parliament. Here, its main responsibilities include debating and reviewing legislation that passes from the Commons, or indeed can be initiated from within the Lords. Many amendments have been made to previous bills, likely due to the varying of opinion within the chamber, with Peers not representing a political party, therefore making them supposedly more open-minded. However, with the aim on paper to be a more neutral and expert-orientated body, many debate how relevant the Lords are – especially in this day and age for such an ancient, medieval-like institution to still exist. With 92 of the peerages being through hereditary right, and an average age of 69, it is safe to say that the Lords do not represent the breadth of the UK.
In an effort to reduce the regional inequalities in the UK and expand the presence of politics to the largely disconnected North, Johnson hopes this will be enough to keep the new Northern Conservative voters appeased. However, reports featuring interviews with many locals have confirmed that the response to this is overwhelmingly negative; Northern residents are either disinterested and unaware of the role of the Lords, angered by the costs that will be incurred, or think that this is totally the wrong move. It is true that to create a new chamber, and one that would have to house the now nearly 800 Peers, would be set to cost hundreds of millions. Some key opposers stated how York, as a prominent tourist city with great affluence, would not in fact be best suited to better represent the UK, particularly the Northern regions. Another also discussed how it is politicians that must now be changing, and that moving geographical location of politics would neither create change nor engage people.
There is also the question of whether this would actually help to reduce national inequalities. From an economical perspective, London productivity is currently 30% higher than the rest of the UK regions. Perhaps what is instead needed is a cash boost for better services, infrastructure and ultimately quality of life, instead of a shoddy token of pity for the north. Amidst the recent news, there have been fresh calls for the abolition of the Lords, something that has indeed been attempted by predecessors in Parliament when aiming to conduct constitutional reform. Yet, reluctance to abolish such an ancient system shows that perhaps the Lords are now enshrined in British ‘culture’, and their presence in a debate over a geographical move and in the news reaffirms that they still have a disputed presence in the UK constitution. Perhaps the Barons will be sticking around for a little longer.
Image: Greggy1900 via Wikimedia Commons