One of the strangest anachronisms in British democracy – apart from our hereditary monarchy – is the unelected House of Lords. The second largest legislative chamber in the world, it consists of a mix of 92 hereditary peers – of which 42 are Conservative and just two are Labour, because that was the balance when the number of hereditary peers was reduced from 750 in 1999 – and over 700 lifetime peers, who are appointed either as a result of a recommendation from the House of Lords Appointments Commission, or of being nominated by a political party.

The House of Lords has significant scrutiny power over legislation. Yet it is fundamentally unrepresentative: more than half of peers willing to declare where they live are in London and only 28% are female. Almost four in ten of those who have been appointed as peers since 1999 are either former politicians, who have secured the lifetime privilege of sitting in the Lords after losing an election or retiring their seats, or former political staff. The Lords has always been used by prime ministers as the ultimate gift to their political allies and financial backers: a lifetime seat in the legislature, which pays over £300 for every day they attend.

The cronyism of this system has attracted renewed attention in the wake of the political crisis enveloping the Conservative party in recent months. Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – prime ministers who resigned in disgrace, the latter after just seven weeks – are both reported to be planning resignation appointments to the House of Lords.

The Lords has always been used by prime ministers as the ultimate gift to their political allies and financial backers

Labour leader Keir Starmer last month announced he would abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected chamber, a welcome commitment to reform. But there’s a danger that this will result in a second chamber full of career politicians. And democratic legitimacy would come at the expense of the one aspect of the Lords that works well: the fact there are some people elected under the current system who have real specialist expertise and are better placed to scrutinise the detail of legislation than many MPs – but who would be unlikely to stand for election under a different system. Current examples include Baroness Sheila Hollins, a former president of the RCP and BMA, who does a lot of work on learning disabilities and autism, and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who brings expertise on disability.

I think there are more effective ways of ensuring a reformed second chamber has democratic legitimacy, while also bringing in a more diverse group of people than those who actively relish standing for election. One idea might be to continue with an appointments system but to have citizens’ panels consisting of members of the public who interview and appoint to the second chamber for fixed terms, say of seven years. Candidates like money-saving expert, Martin Lewis, whom the existing appointments commission rejected, would have a better chance of selection.

Alternatively, a system organised on a vocational and regional basis would see people from professions and vocations such as care assistants, nurses, engineers and bus drivers electing someone from within their own ranks, in their own region, to sit in the House of Lords for a fixed period.

Another idea might be to partially replace a second chamber with citizens’ conventions on major pieces of legislation, run deliberatively, that would seek to achieve consensus on outstanding questions and return legislation improved by citizen scrutiny to the Commons for its amendment and approval. There is plenty of evidence  that, in well-facilitated citizens’ assemblies, members of the public can do a better job at finding a way through controversial issues than elected politicians. For example, UCL ran a citizens’ assembly on Brexit in 2017, which reached a consensual agreement that a soft Brexit would be the best way of managing the trade-offs of Brexit in the wake of the referendum result.

Injecting democratic legitimacy into a second chamber in Westminster is very important. But there may be more imaginative ways to achieve it than defaulting to yet more elections.

Enough is enough, period
You’d think a period products brand would be leading the call to destigmatise women and girls’ periods, and to criticise those who sexualise them. Not Tampax. Its latest campaign suggests it prioritises creepy jokes aimed at men. “You’re in their DMs. We’re in them,” it announced to the world on its American Twitter account last month. In other words, tampons have got one up on the creepy men sliding into women’s DMs. If that wasn’t enough, it self-importantly “refused to let twitter [sic] shut down before we shared this tweet,” to which another period products company, Always, commented: “how long have you been saving this one?”

Many women protested, pointing out that in some cultures girls are not allowed to use tampons because it is wrongly believed they “interfere” with a girls’ virginity.

And that disgusting jokes sexualising the use of tampons for male amusement become even more disgusting in view of how many young girls use their products. It took Tampax a whole four days to delete the tweet and apologise.

Sonia Sodha is chief leader writer at the Observer and a Guardian/Observer columnist. She also presents Analysis documentaries for Radio 4

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