By Dareen Hughes – Electoral Reform Society: Last week, there was a rather hushed announcement in
parliament: a resignation among the Lords. A peer has decided to
retire. No big news usually, but this is no ordinary peerage. Nor will
it be an ordinary replacement. In fact, it will represent the totally
unreformed, undemocratic nature of the second chamber.
The 4th Earl Baldwin of Bewdley is the grandson of Stanley Baldwin –
the three-time Conservative prime minister. He was awarded a hereditary
peerage in 1937 – meaning membership of the House of Lords for him and
his eldest son was to be automatic, forever. Well – until the Lords was
to be properly reformed.
Yet when Tony Blair’s ‘Stage One’ Lords reform was going through in
the late 1990s, threats by noble Lords to hold up the passage of all
legislation in the House led the Labour prime minister to negotiate a
deal with the Conservative leader in the House, Viscount Cranborne. This
was conducted in secret without the knowledge of then Conservative
leader William Hague and led to Cranborne’s sacking.