Structure of Parliament – left/right polarity


A lot of the dissatisfaction people feel with the first-past-the-post system stems from its failure to provide proper representation for those who support smaller parties. My view is that politics is only dominated by party considerations because there is a fundamental polarity in the functions of government – a polarity which is not properly represented in the structure of its institutions.

As I see it, left and right parties tend to favour different areas of policy – welfare on the left, and law and order on the right, for example – and, for the most part, those different areas compete with each other for resources but don't actively conflict with each other. It seems to me, however, that they do need different mindsets and as long as our processes for choosing leaders lump all the functions of government together, we have no hope of a system which is both stable and properly representative.

I suspect there are many people like myself who tend to agree with the left on the issues which the left value most highly, but tend to agree with the right on the issues the right regard as most important. We can only be adequately represented if responsibility for those different areas of government is split between two different bodies.

I believe a Parliament comprising separate left and right houses would be far more appropriate than the upper/lower model we have currently, both in terms of its effectiveness as a legislature, and in terms of how well it represents the views of the electorate. Each house would have different areas of primary responsibility (with each perhaps acting as a modifying chamber on each other's legislation) and each constituency would therefore have two elected representatives – each representing different spheres of political need.

To a large extent, the division of responsibility between the two houses would simply reflect the traditional home-ground of left and right political parties, but there are a number of aspects of government which don't fall naturally into either camp (and there would be occasions where a clash between the two houses would need to be resolved). However, since one member would have a greater majority than the other, a neutral configuration of upper and lower chambers could also be readily derived from the one set of electoral choices – the member with the greater majority would sit in the primary chamber, the other would sit in the secondary chamber.

There would be a lot of detail to be worked out as to what responsibilities lie primarily under which house. I won't attempt to explore that here, however, because the detail will only become relevant once the principle is accepted (and might depend on what other changes are envisaged) and other people may be able to put forward arguments against such a restructuring that I've overlooked.

In writing the above, I've presented it as a reform to Parliament as it is currently structured, with the existing Upper and Lower Houses being replaced by Left and Right Houses. However, I have previously suggested – – that local government should be represented in the legislature and, if that proposal were implemented, this suggestion of left/right houses would operate differently. I'm intending to write about that in another post, on the Route to Reform.

edited on Feb 24, 2015 by Jake Wellman
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