I worked for an organisation that was trying to support a change to the House of Lords to transform it into a mostly elected chamber back in 2012. Needless to say the enterprise was not a success. The foremost reason for this is because to say that neither the Tories nor Labour want any significant changes to the way the House of Lords operates is the understatement of the century. Their combined antipathy towards transforming the Upper House shows just how much Lords reform is not a left-right issue, in fact.
The Right mostly likes the House of Lords because it is an age old institution, and part of the traditional Tory thing is a reverence for old institutions. The Left likes the House of Lords because these days (i.e. post-Blair reforms), it is a break on all sorts of stuff they don’t like. The way the Lords halted the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill, aka the Lansley NHS reforms, in 2012 is a perfect example of this. So too is the current battle between the two Houses around the topic of tax credits. Many on the Left are full of praise for the Upper Chamber all of a sudden when these standoffs occur; out of the blue seemingly, that hoary old chamber filled with sycophants becomes the bastion of all that is good.
The reason both parties really like the way the Lords works though, has nothing to do with ideology at all. They like it because it is handy tool to get out of problems with. Need someone to stand down for anything from the need for more ethnic/gender balance to a brewing scandal? Give ’em a peerage. Want to keep a very intelligent individual who is needed both in policy terms and who knows where all the bodies are buried involved in the party at a top level, even though they (being an intelligent individual, remember) has figured out that being an MP is a rather crap job? Give ’em a peerage. And yes, no one likes to talk about this, but: you want someone to give you a large donation? Give ’em a peerage – just not right away, so as to make it too obvious.
The only thing that would change this equation is if the public really cared about this kind of stuff. But as I found out in 2012, they really, really don’t. Like, not at all. They may get outraged when a peer does something dodgy, but the anger is always directed at the vague, nebulous “establishment” as opposed to the Upper House itself and even then, it lasts a very short while and then is forgotten entirely.
So this is why when the dawn of the next century comes, in a little over 84 years from today, I think the House of Lords will still exist pretty much as it is today – even down to the whole “the prime minister can stuff it full with as many as he/she likes, anytime he/she likes” bit. Because the parties will never want to change it and the public don’t care.