Rank disrespect for our democracy | Letters

The House of Lords represents another world to most of the public, writes Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society, shame on Christopher Chope, writes Tamsin Dunwoody, the daughter of the longest-ever serving woman MP, Gwyneth Dunwoody

Anyone who believes our politicians should be representative of the entire UK will have been astonished by the list of applicants seeking to fill a vacant seat in the House of Lords. There are 19 candidates for 31 voters in this hereditary peer “byelection” – where aristocrats decide from an exclusive list who can vote on our laws for life. From Lord Snowdon, 19th in line to the throne, to Lord Bridges, the Queen’s personal solicitor, it represents another world to most of the public.

This “election” makes a mockery of our democracy. But the whole house does: new research on the Lords has revealed it is dominated by ex-politicians and peers living in and around London, while the north and Midlands are far underrepresented. Almost 39% previously worked in politics, while just one peer’s main background is manual or skilled work – half the number who worked as royal family staff. The Lords is well overdue an overhaul. Let’s scrap the absurd hereditary byelections – and push ahead with a real reform agenda to establish a fairly and fully elected second chamber.
Darren Hughes
Chief executive, Electoral Reform Society

• I rarely criticise parliamentarians for their actions but as the daughter of the former Mother of the House and the longest-serving woman MP ever, I feel uniquely positioned and duty bound to comment on Christopher Chope’s actions. He objected to the private members’ bill on upskirting because it had not been debated and was undemocratic. The PMB is the simplest and purest form of democracy in parliament. It is free of party or government interference. It is the one form of backbencher influence that remains sacrosanct. His complaint that debate doesn’t occur is the failure of him and his colleagues to attend and debate PMBs. My mother fought to her dying day to protect the rights of the backbencher. He destroys that right. She would be ashamed of him.
Tamsin Dunwoody
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

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