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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Labour blasts 'closed elite' as figures reveal majority of House of Lords went to private school

Labour blasts 'closed elite' as figures reveal majority of House of Lords went to private school
3 min read

Labour has hit out at the "closed elite" in the House of Lords after figures revealed that the majority of peers went to private school.


Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett joined electoral campaigners in demanding change as it emerged that 57% of those currently sitting in the upper chamber were privately educated - compared to just 7% of the population as a whole.

The figures were included in research by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission - and show that there has been an eight-percent rise in the proportion of peers who went to private school since 2014.

That compares to a four-percent drop over the past five years in the proportion of MPs who went to independent schools, with 29% of those currently sitting in the House of Commons having been privately-educated.

Mr Trickett told PoliticsHome the figures revealed "a closed elite circle that still controls many of the key levers of power in the country".

The frontbencher, who represents the West Yorkshire seat of Hemsworth, added: "The fact that the House of Lords is even more elitist than ever should come as no surprise.

"I'm sorry to say that such people have little knowledge of areas such as the one I represent. It's wrong that crucial decisions about the country’s future are made in this way. It’s time for change."

The figures were also pounced on by campaigners from the Politics For The Many group, which is planning to step up demands to overhaul the House of Lords at a conference in August marking 200 years since political reform protestors were killed in the Peterloo Massacre.

Lynn Henderson, spokesperson for the group, told PoliticsHome: "These figures show in stark terms the eye-watering levels of privilege in the second chamber.

"It beggars belief that while we talk about improving social mobility, the unelected Lords is becoming even more out of touch with the public - a haven for the privileged, while our elected MPs are looking more like those they represent."

'FAIRLY-ELECTED'

According to 2017 research compiled by the Electoral Reform Society, almost a fifth (18%) of those sitting in the House of Lords are aged over 80, compared to 6.7% of the UK's over-21 population.

Meanwhile just over a quarter (26%) of those in the upper chamber are women.

Ms Henderson said: "For too long, Westminster’s political system has been for the few, and by the few. It’s time to build a politics for the many. We need a fairly-elected second chamber that represents the diversity and talents of the whole UK."

Theresa May last year ditched plans to cut size of the House of Lords after a report from the Lord Speaker’s Committee recommended slashing its membership to no more than 600 peers, down from 778.

The committee had called for all peers to be appointed to 15-year terms, arguing that the move would "result in the House making an even more effective contribution to the work of Parliament".

But the Prime Minister said: “In my view the constitutional issues associated with the recommendations… require further careful thought and engagement, particularly with the House of Commons, before those steps can be progressed.”

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