If we must have a second chamber then it must have democratic legitimacy if it is to act as a check (though not a block) on the Commons and initiate some laws. Since people complain about the lack of proportional representation when voting for MPs, the second chamber should rectify this deficiency. However, since using direct elections to select representatives for a second chamber would undermine the primacy of MPs, we need a system that is both indirect and proportional.
The second chamber should have just 300 members (half the number of the, to be reformed, Commons). We would only select these after each general election from those candidates who failed to win election to the Commons (this would prevent the list from becoming just another patronage tool for party leaders – since local constituency parties select most candidates).
We would divide the seats between all the parties contesting the general election based on their total share of the national vote. Parties with less the 1% of the national vote would not get a seat. In the interests of fairness, Independents would count as one party.
We would rank all the losing candidates for the Commons by the total number of votes they won in their local election. This would favour candidates who nearly won in constituencies where more people voted. This should encourage people to vote for a good candidate who is unlikely to win because they might still get a seat in the second chamber.
Say the Conservative Party wins 33% of the national vote – we therefore allocate it 99 seats in the second chamber. Ms Blueeyes is their losing candidate with the most votes so she gets the first seat. Mr Bluenose also got more votes than most other Conservative losers – so he gets the second seat, and so on until we have allocated all the party’s seats to its top 99 losers, (the remaining losers don’t get a second chance).
If Independents got 5% of the national vote – they would get 15 seats in the second chamber. Again, the losing Independent candidate with the most votes in their local election would get the first seat.
We would not allow parties to replace candidates with other nominations – if a candidate dropped out then the seat would go to the next losing candidate down the list. This way, every person in the second chamber is a named individual who has at least stood in a general election and gained a reasonable number of votes. The overall makeup of the second chamber would be proportional but since none of the members would represent a constituency, they could not usurp the role of the MP.
Second chamber representatives could naturally stand for the Commons in future elections – their role in the second chamber might help them build (or destroy) their political reputation with the electorate – somewhat reducing the advantage usually held by incumbent MPs and so making for fairer elections.