THE BLOG

Cash Is King... Well, Baron at Least

22/03/2015 21:13 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:59 BST

We must elect the Lords. Not only is it embarrassingly undemocratic for the UK to retain an appointed legislature, but according to new research from Oxford University, it could also be corrupt.

This weekend, amidst fresh allegations of dodgy donations in the House of Lords, and covered in an exclusive by The Observer, a paper published by academic researchers, claims that one in 22 Tory big donors, one in 14 Labour big donors, and one in seven Lib Dem big donors, have been nominated for a peerage.

The researchers analysed all nominations to the House of Lords between 2005 and 2014 and all big political donations since 2001.

They separated those who have been nominated for peerages in to two groups. The first group are those you'd expect to get an honour - elevation to the upper house based on some kind of merit, such as former MPs and senior public figures. That group make up 70% of the nominations, but just 2.1% of political party donations received from Lords' nominees.

The second group, according to the researchers, make up the remaining 30% of nominees, and account for a staggering 97.9% of donations, totalling £33.8million.

The researchers also analysed whether the House of Commons was as likely to have major donors as the House of Lords. They suggest that with 28 out of the 303 Lords' nominees being "big donors", a similar ratio in the Commons would see 86 "big donor" MPs being elected. Their research however showed that there were just two such MPs, suggesting that an elected chamber is much less likely to see "big donors" gaining seats.

As I wrote in the wake of the Scottish Referendum, our Westminster politicians have resisted constitutional reform for far too long. Nothing short of a written constitution will now do, including provision to elect all of our legislators. Liberal Democrats have long advocated Lords reform, but despite the Coalition Agreement containing details for electing the second chamber, the Lib Dems didn't succeed in delivering democracy in the upper house during this parliament.

Those of us who champion democracy in Lords have long suspected that political party donors are overrepresented on the red benches. The Oxford university research provides evidence to that argument.

As the late Peter Ustinov so poignantly remarked,

"Corruption is nature's way of restoring our faith in democracy'.

We must elect the Lords.