1 August 2013

Why the Green Party is right to nominate Jenny Jones to the House of Lords

Firstly, congratulations to Jenny. She has stood twice in an internal democratic selection for us to choose a nominee to the Lords, and on both occasions topped the poll. In the first, both the Green Party in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Green Party also took part. In the second, the ballot was for the England and Wales Green Party only. She is the chosen nominee of our members and as usual the Greens have looked to run the most democratic process possible, given that this is the House of Lords we are talking about.

I have a huge amount of sympathy for those in and outside of the Greens who think that a democratic party should not touch the current House of Lords with a bargepole. It is a disgrace that the red, yellow and blue parties collude to prop up an undemocratic house of privilege, drawing its membership from appointees who owe their position to party loyalty or their history as a large donor. That is before we even look at the members who are there due to inherited or set aside positions. However, accepting the offer of a place, with a candidate who has been democratically selected, is the right decision.

My argument why we should take the place is based on our previous experience of having a member of the House of Lords [edit - Darren Johnston has pointed out we also has a peer in the 1980s as well, George MacLeod] and I'd urge you to read this to understand why, despite all the drawbacks, getting a single Green Party peer is a worthwhile step for us to take (original story on the Green Party website):

Green peer in asylum bill victory

24 October 2002

The House of Lords has voted for a humanitarian amendment to the asylum bill following the actions of Green Party peer Lord Beaumont of Whitley.Lord Beaumont hosted a debate which led to an important amendment to the nationality, immigration and asylum bill on Wednesday. The House of Lords voted to overturn a government plan to teach the children of asylum seekers in camps instead of local schools.

Lord Beaumont said: "I sponsored the meeting last night that was referred to in so many speeches. Statements from participants were immensely moving. Everyone spoke with one voice against the bill."

The Green peer, who is the only Green Party representative in the Westminster parliament, added "The amendment was carried by a single vote. I'm pleased that the Green Party view prevailed, but it's a continuing disappointment that a civilised country should be treating asylum seekers this way."

Government plan "divisive and unacceptable"

He concluded: "The Government's plans to teach children seeking asylum in camps rather than in schools is a divisive one, and something simply untenable in a modern society. This sort of isolation makes it difficult for families to become accepted in our community, and allows prejudice born of ignorance to fester."

Ideological purity might demand that we don't take the appointment, but if Jenny can table an amendment like this, improve a piece of legislation or expose malpractice using the scrutiny powers in committee during her time in the Lords, then it is a worthwhile appointment. We also want to reform the pretty undemocratic House of Commons too, but that hasn't stopped us electing an MP. There will be benefits to the party from this and I look forward to seeing Jenny in action.


Jonathan Clatworthy said...

Absolutely right. Every system of government is imperfect. Every system can be abused by somebody. We should use what we've got.
An additional point: if we had a fully elected House of Lords, as per the Commons, I can't see why we should get better politicians than we get in the Commons. The big parties have got the system sewn up. If we need a second chamber at all we need it most of all for the things the Commons are bad at - and we can all think of plenty of those.

Anna Heyman said...

Next time we should ballot our supporters as well as our members. It would be expensive but worthwhile in terms of cementing support and promoting democracy.