House of Lords reform seems to be back on the agenda at long last. Labour has indulged in many acts of constitutional vandalism since 1997 but none has been as bungled as their efforts to reform our Second Chamber. The trouble was that they embarked on the reform process without any idea at all what they wanted to end up with. If you start on a reform purely based on class hatred you're bound to come a cropper. Anyway, the past is the past and we are where we are.
Reforming the Lords is a tricky one for the Conservatives too. I have no doubt that the leadership wants to go down the road of 80-100% elected Peers - and they are quite right. How anyone can support a wholly or majority appointed second chamber in this day and age is quite beyond me. Those who do, tend to trot out the old line about the House of Commons being undermined by a powerful second chamber. Rubbish. If the House of Commons lacks confidence in its pre-eminence, it says a lot about the quality of the people in it.
The Conservative dilemma is the reaction of its existing Peers, who will have no truck with an elected second chamber. David Cameron should be strong and tell them how it's going to be. Frankly, he's got little to lose. The Tory old guard in the Lords will never approve of what he's trying to do anyway, so if he has to upset them, so be it.
One idea I've been toying with is whether to formally suggest to Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force that one Peer/Senator should be elected per County/Metropolitan area, rather like they do in the USA. I haven't researched how many there are or what the populations split is, but it would link Peers to an area and probably avoid a huge predominance by one particular party. It would also have the added bonus of entrenching the country structure within our system of government.
But one thing I am very clear on is that whatever system is chosen, the Second Chamber must be either wholly or mostly elected. I am quite happy for it to retain an appointed/crossbench element but any appointed Peers should be able to speak but not vote. Voting should be reserved for those who have a democratic mandate.
UPDATE: Having read the Comments section, let me make clear that I wouldn't have started from this point. The House of Lords was doing its job as a revising chamber under the old system, and for that reason alone it was dangerous to tamper with it. If it wasn't broke, why fix it, apart from pure class hatred? But we're not there anymore. The reform process has begun and needs now to come to a conclusion.