Who would want to be a lord?

The trouble with random selection of the upper house, advocated by Melanie McDonagh ("Make the Lords a lottery", 1 November), is that few people would drop everything for five years to serve in parliament. The experiences of MPs show the difficulties for family life and for career development of being a legislator, particularly for those who have to leave Westminster after one term. It is one thing for career politicians to accept these problems voluntarily in return for power. It is quite another to inflict them upon ordinary people by lot.

Over a five-year period, people selected by chance to serve in the upper house would cease to be representative of the general population. All legislators become attuned to the culture of their assembly.

Random selection would work much better if people were chosen to serve for a single piece of major legislation or for a short period, a month at most. With generous support arrangements, ordinary people could manage such service, just as they manage to take holidays.

Francis Stansfield

This article first appeared in the 08 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - To uplift the souls of the people