Bishops and party leaders urged to back Parliamentary reform

Bishops and party leaders urged to back Parliamentary reform

Place of institutional religion in Second Chamber will be litmus test says thinktank

London, UK - MARCH 31, 2010 The religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, which earlier this month helped facilitate over 63,000 letters from the public to the 'Lords Spiritual' urging them to take a lead in Parliamentary reform, is supporting Power 2010's extended campaign for change.

From today, those backing change are being encouraged to co-sign a letter to Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, calling for an end to the House of Lords and its replacement by an accountable body. Signatories have the chance to add their own personal messages. (www.power2010.org.uk/SecondChamber)

Whether unelected and unaccountable bishops continue to have reserved places will be the benchmark against which reform will be measured, says the thinktank.

"The unelected position of the bishops in a House of Lords run by patronage rather than proper participation is a litmus test for the government and opposition parties over their seriousness about parliamentary reform," commented Simon Barrow, co- director of Ekklesia.

"In a matter of days, an unprecedented 63,000 letters were sent by ordinary members of the public to the bishops in the House of Lords, asking them to support change rather than resist it. An ICM poll shows that 70 per cent of Christians want that, too. So far the Lords Spiritual have remained silent. But as the tide of reform sweeps on, neither they nor the party leaders can hope simply to go on ducking the issue," he added.

"Some have suggested that asking the bishops to support a reformed Second Chamber is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas," said Barrow. "On the contrary, our message is that Christmas is coming - so why be a turkey?"

Britain is the only Parliamentary system in the world where unelected representatives of one sex, from one part of the country, and of one denomination within one religion are given the right to vote on legislation affecting the whole country. The other country which has similar arrangements is Iran.

In addition, the upper chamber in parliament currently consists of political appointees from the main parties and "a group of aristocrats who have inherited the right to rule", says Power 2010.

ENDS

Notes to Editors
1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia has been listed by The Independent newspaper as among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religious and political / current affairs websites in Britain. More: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

2. Power2010 is a unique campaign to give everyone the chance to have a say in how our democracy works. It involved the public directly in 'changing politics for good'. At the forthcoming election, Power2010 will work to encourage every candidate to commit to reforms people have voted to see as part of a nation- wide campaign to reinvigorate democracy from the grassroots. http://www.power2010.org.uk/

3. The letter to party leaders calling for Second Chamber reform is here: www.power2010.org.uk/SecondChamber

4. The letter to bishops, asking them to back Second Chamber reform, and signed by tens of thousands of people is here: http://www.power2010.org.uk/faith

5. The ICM poll showing that 70% of those self- identifying as 'Christian' back change can be seen here:
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11513