Which house is most representative?

Representativeness of Parliament
The above graphic shows an interesting take on the “representativeness” of the two Houses of Parliament in the UK. (graphic: © Outside The Marginals)

The voting system distorts the House of Commons in favour of the two largest parties (comparing actual votes to seats won).

Nomination over decades seems to even out some of this distortion meaning that the “unelected” House of Lords ends up looking more representative of the electorate as a whole. “Non Aligned” being members of the electorate who did not vote and members of the House of Lords who have no party affiliation.

The most notable difference in the House of Lords make-up is the split between Liberal and “Other”. This is partly because:

  • The massive increase in (Westminster) support for the Scottish Nationalists at the last General Election (May 2015) is not reflected in the make-up of the House of Lords (The SNP do not nominate people for membership – wanting to see the Lords abolished)
  • The crash of the Liberal Democrats at the last General Election is not yet reflected in their reduced ability to nominate new Lords to replace those dying off.

I’m not saying that the House of Lords is more democratic than the House of Commons, but I am saying beware of criticising the Lords when they block the government – the Lords membership may more accurately reflect opinion in the country! Also be wary of the Conservatives “stuffing the Lords” to “redress the balance”.

Reform of both Houses is needed. The House of Commons might benefit from more accurately reflecting the diversity of opinion in the country (and within parties) at a General Election. The House of Lords might benefit from a democratic mandate as well as reflecting longer term trends in diversity of opinion.

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