Most of Britain's Parliament is not elected... Meet THE LORDS

here in the uk you might think that we

live in a democracy because

after all we have elections and we get

to vote but that's only one side of the


in fact over there in the houses of

parliament the majority of politicians

have not actually been elected

so in this video i'm going to

investigate the house of lords

does it still have a place in the 21st

century or is it just a club for posh

old men and rich elites

the media have a caricature of the house

lords they always show the picture of

the peers in their robes

at the opening of parliament you really

couldn't make this stuff up it belongs

in the harry potter

movie not in the house of parliament i'm

on my way to meet

a british politician who sat in

parliament for 48 years

that means that he's seen nine prime

ministers and 12 elections

but here's the thing in all that time

the british public have never actually

voted for him to be there

welcome to the manner of the earl of




hello this is john palmer but officially

he's called the earl of selburn he's

part of the british nobility

who have inherited their elite names and

privileges over hundreds of years

now he's age 79 and he spends most of

his time here

on a 6 000 acre estate in the south of

england surrounded by his beloved fruit


we can live with badgers that's not a

problem we're looking for a badger poo

right now

this is a badger latrine and how much of

this land

do you own or how far does it go out not

to the horizon but it goes

about a mile in that direction as a

member of the house of lords

he's been able to have a say on almost

every new law that's been brought in

from crime to brexit banking the health


and even the british armed forces in

1971 your

grandfather died and that's when you

then became a hereditary lord so what

how does that work

i had to write to the clerk of

parliament and i had to

share my birth certificate and the death

certificate for my grandfather

and i was duly therefore then a member

of the lords so what's going on when

people talk about the uk's houses of


they're normally talking about the house

of commons that's where the prime

minister goes every week

to answer questions from other political



but parliament actually has two chambers

the other one is the house of lords and

that's where the earl of soborn is

members of the house of lords are often

known as peers and there's almost 800 of


in total now you can spot one of these

peers a mile off

because they go by these ancient titles

like earl baroness

juke and vi count and out of all 800 of


none of them have been elected by us the


there are three main ways you can become

a peer in the house of lords

the most common way is to be appointed

as a life peer

another way to get into the house of

lords is to become a bishop

there are 26 seats reserved especially

for the church of england

and finally you can get a seat in

parliament just by

well inheriting it from your parents and

that's how the earl of sailboard got in

he's one of 92 hereditary peers who were


into a ruling establishment class and

given powerful positions

in parliament i mean i've been a herd

repair by an accident of birth

and i think that i've made a

contribution but i have no

case for saying that hereditaries

have any more expertise than anyone else

so if you

had been elected at various elections

during that time

how would that have changed what you

would have spoken about remember you see

an mp is elected by his constituency and

they are

always thinking about the next election

but in the lords

you're not responding to those immediate

pressures uh you can take

a step back and you can sometimes


issues which wouldn't necessarily be

very popular for your constituents but

when it comes to the rather boring

uh nitty-gritty of trying to

win an election i'm afraid i've rather

lost interest

over the years there have been calls for

the house of lords to be reformed

but is being undemocratic really so bad

and if so

what could be done about it to find out

we need to dig a little deeper

if you are writing the laws of the

country that you want the citizens to

live under

then the citizens should have a say in

who you are i think the hereditary peers

have literally had a born to rule

attitude towards it all they can only

get this job because

of the family they were born into and

that's not on any particular thing

they've done

it's based on one of their forefathers

did which you know that's just not the

way the world

uh works anymore so i think that it's a

real hangover from a different age

so ever since 2002 there have been

elections for the hereditary peers

now i know what you're thinking that

sounds like great news at last

the house of lords is finally democratic

right wrong

these elections have a little catch you

can only be a candidate if you're part

of the elite aristocracy all they've got

to do

is to write a brief personal statement

like it's university or something

that's all they've got to do to get a

seat in the house of lords and some of

those personal statements are

well see for yourself i wish to come and

give my support for brexit

i have been in farming this lord wrote i

wish to inherit a seat as promised in

letters patent

by the monarch all my ancestors on both


have served and as if it's not a


he adds i reside in westminster and can


the house of lords this lord said always

willing to serve

lord cadman didn't bother to write

anything at all

and the earl of limerick for his

personal statement well

you guessed it he submitted a poem the

upper house knows none so queer a

creature as the seatless pier

flamingo like he stands all day with no

support to hold his sway

and waits with covert eagerness for 92

to be one

just to be clear we haven't made these

up those people think that submitting

those personal statements

should be enough to secure them a seat

in parliament for life

i don't defend the hereditary system


you can't defend it logically but

equally i don't apologize

clearly this system is kind of

undemocratic so can we really call the

uk a democracy

and for people like the olaf sailboard

can he really justify

being in parliament when the public has

never voted for him to be there

no one is seriously suggesting that

hereditary should remain

but we will remain there until they make

up their mind what they want


what really angers people about the

house of lords is that it's not just

undemocratic it costs taxpayers loads of


for one thing it costs millions just to

keep that building up and running

and the place has been plagued by

expenses scandals

most unelected peers can claim up to 305

pounds on expenses

every day just for turning up and a few

are given

a full salary complete with

chauffeur-driven cars

so i came down to westminster to meet a

peer called baroness d'souza

she joined the house of lords in 2004

after being appointed by committee and

she went on to become

the speaker i wanted to find out about

why the place has a bad reputation

i mean you yourself have made

extravagant expenses claims

at times didn't you no so when you

charge 230 pounds for a chauffeur-driven

car to take you to the ballet do you

know how many people were in that car at

that time

how many five but do you so you stand by

that being

your own expenses it was absolutely

erroneous i was meant to spend 70 000

pounds on flowers okay that was

accumulated over five years in the end

it worked out i spent about 10

pounds a week and you know i would have

thought that having a bunch of flowers

in your room

uh to cheer up distinguished visitors is

kind of okay

did you need a chamfer driven car to

take you to the opera yes why did you

need to travel because i had with me

a russian speaker of the federation

council whose security required

to drive in a special car even though it

was a very short distance

absolutely she doesn't go by public

transport i tell you that

when i went to windsor for a state


it's quite difficult believe you me

you're a man you probably don't know


to wear a ball gown on public transport

on a rainy evening and hope that

there'll be a taxi there to take you up


windsor park i do not accept that i was

in an expensive scandal

there is so much that was not incurred

i mean have you looked at the expenses

of some

other you know senior politicians and uh


uh people in in in in various sort of

local government have you looked at


but compare that with what what this

comes down to the idea of

they're elected they're accountable

people can then say you know what

you misused your expenses i could vote

you out of office but people like

yourself can't be

voted in or out of office when you say

we're not accountable to the public

that's a very

of course that's right of course that's

right that said again

i would argue that um much of what the

lords does in terms of bringing up

uh issues which are really

alien to the government in the sense

they don't want to address it because

it's embarrassing what's a difficult

thing like for instance

female genital mutilation which for

years and years and years was off the


the heart of lords put it back on the

agenda amongst others they really put it

back on the agenda

now we should be clear baroness d'souza

didn't break any rules over her expenses

and she says the house of lords is

essential because of the work it does

preparing legislation

the question is even though we are a

democracy and lots of things about the


are genuinely democratic are we


enough the public doesn't on the whole

think a lot about the horse awards i

mean when i say doesn't think a lot they

don't spend a lot of time thinking about

the house awards

um it's outside their sphere of interest

however when it's brought before them as

it is being currently because of the


upheavals we're experiencing i think

they probably think it ought to be a

democratically elected house

without thinking through what the

implications of that are there was a

very good census done not so long ago

where the question was

do you think that the house of lords

should be democratically elected and the

answer was 95

yes and then another question further

down on the same census was

do you want more elected politicians the

answer was no so i'm not sure that

the vast majority of people don't really

know what the house of lords does

so is it time to change the house of


or is the uk democratic enough already

it's a democracy on on on paper

but actually for for very easy changes

we could make it a much

richer and more more more meaningful and

healthier democracy

if we were prepared to make the changes

that that are so obvious to most voters

who say these are the sorts of things

they'd like to see changed

so there we go that's the house of lords

but obviously that's only one part of

the uk's political system

and we're going to do another video

asking how democratic is the

rest of it so let us know your thoughts

and ideas in the comments below

and let us know if there's anything

you'd like us to cover

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