Saturday, 10 November 2012

'One Day' Film Review

So, first of all, I haven't ever done a film review before so go easy. 'One Day' is based on the 2009 novel by David Nichols which I very much enjoyed and which follows two friends, Emma (played by Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), from university until their mid-thirties and how their relationships with each other and those around them change. I read the book pretty much as soon as it came out and loved the richness and warmth of the story and believability of the spark between the characters so when I heard it was being made into a film I was naturally excited. However, this excitement was rather diluted when I heard that Anne Hathaway would be playing the role of Emma, not that I have anything against her as an actress, I loved her in The Devil Wears Prada for example, my bugbear lay in the fact that she was an American actress playing a British character. We have ample British acting talent in this country without having to resort across the pond. Anyway, I eventually got round to watching 'One Day' and the fact that it was only 4 quid in Sainsburys helped so I thought I'd share my thoughts for any one who has read the book or just wants to give the film a whirl.

**********************SPOILER ALERT - DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT***********************************************************

Firstly, if you're planning on watching it, I implore you to read the book first, you'll know and have a feel for the main characters and I always think it's fun to compare your imagination's interpretation of the characters to the director's. The film starts with Emma and Dexter at university in Edinburgh and the chemistry between the two is apparent from the start, this is something that is done very well by Hathaway and Sturgess. The opening scenes are also very aesthetically pleasing and the filming of Edinburgh reflects it's true beauty. The film quickly launches into shadowing the two main characters, as the film starts on the 15th July, each scene when we see them in the future is also on this day. Observing the changing fashions, music and hairstyles is also one of the most enjoyable parts of the film and these historical observations are done very accurately indeed.

As the film progresses, the characters naturally develop and their relationship with each other becomes ever more fraught. Although Hathaway and Sturgess are very good at honing the chemistry between the two characters, the frustration and anger that Emma feels towards Dexter did seem rather hollow and it seemed Hathaway never quite got to grips with this or Emma's character in general. I interpreted Emma to be a rather plain, uncool character who was slightly out of Dexter's league looks wise but much deeper and mature in terms of personality. The casting of Hathaway didn't really reflect this, for one she seems far too glamorous for the role of Emma which subsequently makes the pairing of her with Ian (Rafe Spall) completely unconvincing. On the other hand, Sturgess seems completely at ease with Dexter's persona and we can totally believe he is an arrogant, cocaine riddled, egoistic TV presenter. He grapples with the various sides of Dexter superbly and I could really feel the character develop, sadly I could not say the same about Hathaway's portrayal of Emma. 

Probably my greatest disappointment with the film was Hathaway's disastrous attempts to conquer the Yorkshire accent. As a Yorkshirewoman myself I admit I am a harsh critic but in comparison with Renee Zellweger's take on Bridget Jones, Hathaway pales in comparison. Hathaway's accent swings from Vera Duckworth's 'ey up lad' to posh RP English to, at some points an almost Texan sounding American! I spotted three American sounded lilts in the first ten minutes. I am not claiming to be an expert on accents and I am sure I would find it hard to do a New Jersey accent for the entirety of a film but that's why I'm not not paid multi-million pound sums to act and she is. Overall her ever changing accent was so distracting I couldn't focus on the plot line and it ruined my enjoyment of the film. 

The support cast, such as Dexter's girlfriend during his hedonistic TV star days and Emma's partner Ian both add humour and enhance Hathaway and Sturgess' performances (which I suppose is the point!). The film is also very good looking, and not just due to Jim Sturgess, Edinburgh looks beautiful at the start of the film and Paris glimmers in the later scenes. The death of Emma did make me cry (a lot) so her acting efforts can't be completely slated, however, the film didn't do justice to the book which I loved so much, the story, at time felt rather rushed and snapshott-y which made it to hard to establish the complex and messy relationship between the two lead characters and to properly get to grips with how their relationship develops over time. I also didn't get a real sense of Emma's frustration with her job and relationship with Ian which seemed such an integral part of the book and agitated the already existing contrast between Dexter and Emma at that stage of her relationship.

On the whole, I'd probably give the film 6/10. Despite Hathaway's weak performance, terrible accent and the dodgy casting decision to cast her as Emma, the story stayed pretty true to the book and Sturgess' performance as Dexter saved the day. If you're bored and fancy some easy viewing then I'd say give it a go but don't go in with high expectations! 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

These are a few of my favourite things. Continued.

Most people groan when the adverts come on, not me. I love adverts, well I love good adverts I should say. For example, I don't think anyone can claim to be a fan of Safestyle UK's ad: 'You buy one you get one free' where a bearded man in odd medieval clothes pushes some windows to the floor, however, well made adverts can make you think, catch you by surprise or have the ability to unite the whole nation in a daft catchphrase; 'simples!', 'Oh Yes' or 'Because you're worth it', spurring an incessant trend of imitations and parodies. Adverts can also unite the nation in a wave of collective irritation, Go Compare man I am looking at you, and finally we have the bland and banal of the advertising world, adverts which have neither the ability to catch your imagination or make you love to hate them, I'm talking about adverts for pay day loans, PPI recovery, personal injury claims, adverts which are probably a pretty good but boring example of the basic purpose of advertising, they convey the company's aim but do little else. And no matter how much people moan about adverts interrupting their favourite TV shows or trying to flog them stuff they don't want, I bet they don't moan when the Coca-Cola advert comes on signalling the start of Christmas. 

Adverts are everywhere but TV adverts are my particular favourite. From the pretentious mobile phone company adverts which are so successfully ridiculed by Tesco:

To the lavish and oh so easily parodied Marks and Spencer's food advert. Remember this isn't just an advert, it's a Marks and Spencer advert:

Song is Groove Armada's 'At the River'

Clever and thought provoking adverts get people talking about the advert and ultimately, which is the obvious aim of advertising, talking about the product and the company. Yes, the Go Compare man is incredibly annoying (a fact which GoCompare themselves now use for their advantage) but it certainly makes the name stick in your head and forces the viewer to form some sort of reaction, whether positive, or more likely, negative. 

The Advertising Standards Agency recently published a list of the most complained about adverts in past years. Topping the list was a KFC advert featuring office workers eating a KFC salad and singing with their mouths open. Ironically, the 1,671 people complaining about the advert probably gave the new KFC salad better publicity than KFC could have hoped for as the advert was broadcast on countless news sites. Some cynical people may say this was part of KFC's plan all along......

I'll end with a few of my favourite adverts. Adverts which do not particularly make me want to buy the product, I do not own a Volkswagen or a Sony TV and I buy supermarket own brand bread rather than Hovis. This may cause some to say these adverts have therefore failed their primary aim, to sell their product through the medium of TV. Personally, I think there's far more to advertising than that. Original, thought provoking and well made adverts enhance not only the product being advertised but the look and image of the brand as a whole. 

This is probably my favourite advert of all time, the ambience and message conveyed through the advert means it could almost qualify as a short film. The chilling and atmospheric music in the background is Cliff Martinez's 'Don't Blow It' and Richard Burton reads the opening to 'Under Milk Wood' by Dylan Thomas. My favourite piece of literature in the English language. Although this advert is a few years old now, I never tire of watching it.

Secondly, an advert that is colloquially known as the 'Bouncing Balls' advert. I love this advert because it is just so cool. 3D and LCD TV is a pretty boring topic to advertise so even more credit is due to the producers. According to the making of, 250,000 coloured balls were dropped down the streets of San Francisco.The music in the advert is Jose Gonzalez's cover of The Knife's 'Heartbeats'.

Thirdly, an advert that still brings a smile to my face no matter how many times I watch it. To condense 122 years worth of history into two minutes is a feat in itself but to do it all based on a walk back from the shop to get a loaf is so simply brilliant it's astounding, the use of fashion, dialogue and instantly recognisable scenes means in every scene the year can be identified. Rather annoyed they missed the whole of the 90s but I'll get over it....

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The House of Lords: myth buster

So, constitutional reform is on the agenda in the form of proposed reform to the House of Lords. Lords reform has been a long and drawn out process, starting in 1911 with the Parliament Act which stopped the Lords from vetoing any money bills, continuing with the 1949 Parliament Act which increased the Common's dominance over the Lords by reducing the Lords power to delay legislation further by allowing a time limit of one year on Lord's delay of legislation. A further programme of rather piecemeal Lords reform was initiated by the Blair Governments, seeking to remove the hereditary principle for membership and dramatically reducing the numbers of Lords, again enhancing the supremacy of the Commons.  There are currently 92 hereditary peers remaining.

Since 1999, however, the Lords has remained largely unchanged despite being discussed numerous times in the Commons and suggestions of reform from all three major parties. At present, there are 775 members of the Lords, over 100 more than the Commons, these members are made up of Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual, of the latter there are 26. 

This is meant to be a fairly short blog seeking to counteract many of the false or inaccurate claims made both in the media and by politicians in recent days rather than a call to arms for full out and immediate reform.

1. The Lords provides expertise and therefore should remain in its current form

It is true to state that, like in the Commons, members has expertise in certain areas and therefore should remain in order to utilise this in the legislative process. There are of course, widely known and active members of the Lords who do have expertise in some areas, Lord Walton, a neurologist, Lord Norton, a constitutional expert and Lord Winston, a famous expert on genetics all do enhance this reputation. However, it is estimated that only 10% of Lords are actually there as a result of their expertise in comparison to 40% who are former politicians. This for me, is not a convincing enough figure to use expertise as an argument for keeping the Lords. Expertise could instead be brought in through the already widespread committee system. The fact that Lords can also be employed by the Government as paid advisers also raises questions about bias and a lack of transparency amongst Lords.

2. The Second Chamber should not be elected through a proportional system as voters have rejected this through the AV referendum

False, completely and utterly false, yes, the system of AV was rejected but voters have never had the chance to vote on a proportional system as AV isn't one, it's majoritarian. It is also interested to note that polling by Unlock Democracy of 3671 correspondents showed that 86.33% preferred the Single Transferable Vote system.

3. But people aren't interested in Lords Reform?

One of the main claims used by opponents of Lords reform in recent days has been that people just simply don't care. This could be true and people may not have strong opinions on Lords Reform per se, however, and I know from experience as working as a constituency caseworker in an MP's office, ask the average person on the street whether they are happy with the way politics operates in the UK and I can place a pretty good bet on what they would say. Judging from casework I received, it appears people are disillusioned and unhappy with our political institutions and often feel politicians are out of touch, unrepresentative and distant. The House of Lords is, in my opinion, the epitome of these concerns. Claims the Lords adds diversity to parliament are weakened by the fact that there are more members of the Lords over 90 than under 40 and that only 22% are female. Yes, the Lords may add some variation in terms of background and former careers, however, from a microcosmic point of view, the Lords are even further away from representing society than the Commons. It is also interesting to note that from one website alone, 3000 people have written to their MP about Lords reform.

4. This isn't the right time to introduce constitutional reform

This just simply doesn't hold up and assumes the Government can only focus on one thing at once, something I hope is not the case, take the 1944 Education Act, one of the biggest reforms to education in all of the 20th century, this Act was introduced in the midst of the Second World War and completely overhauled the secondary school system in the UK. Attention  is not being taken away from economic affairs but our constitution should always be considered a priority as it directly affects the outward workings of parliament and how it relates to the electorate and is a clear means to an end.

5.  But surely the Lords is traditional and therefore should stay?

I'm not even going to dignify this response with an answer, tradition is no argument for anything. 

Overall, I think these reforms are long overdue and highly necessary if we are to restore trust and legitimacy to our second chamber. The fact that proposals for Lords reform were in all three party's manifestos, the coalition agreement and have been the subject of debate for a number of years it is high time this is finally put into practice.

Friday, 11 May 2012

These are a few of my favourite things

I am not the artiest person in the world, I used to be but a terrible art GCSE teacher kind of dwindled any arty aspirations I may of once had. However, my head is still occasionally turned by a particular piece of architecture  sculpture or painting and I do still have a few favourite artists. So, in a break from my usual rants/ political musings I thought I'd list my favourite pieces of art, sculpture, architecture and just arty things. 
NB: I am certainly not claiming to be an expert in any sense of the word this is merely a list of my favourite pieces.

1. Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright
This is one of my favourite pieces of design of all time. 1930s America is in my option, one of the best eras for art and literature in particular the social realist paintings of Edward Hopper and Dorothea Lange. The desperation of the Great Depression brought out an incredibly refreshing style of art, much preferable, in my opinion, to the romanticised art of the previous century. 

2. Bigger Trees Near Water, David Hockney
As a proud Yorkshirewoman, any painting detailing a Yorkshire scene is instantly going to be more attractive to me than any other rural scene. Nonetheless, Hockney's set of paintings of the Yorkshire wolds are truly magnificent and stunning to view (I was lucky enough to view them at Hull's Feren's art gallery last year). David Hockney will always be one of my favourite artists and I feel proud to come from the same glorious part of the world!

3. Hoover Factory, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners
Art Deco is one of my favourite art styles of all time, the sleek lines, bauhausy curves and elegant glass all combine to produce, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful buildings and pieces of art of all time. I am also very lucky to live near to a very unusual home to art deco listed architecture in the form of a fish and chip shop in Oakwood, Leeds which always used to intrigue me on the way to my grandma's house when I was younger and was probably the cause of my love for this chic and simplistic style of architecture. 

4. La Mitrailleuse, Christopher Richard Wynne

The First World War was a futile, desperate and incredibly sad waste of entire generation but in terms of art, WW1 had an incredible impact on both art and poetry and this piece is probably my favourite out of all of the pieces of art during this period. The geometric and futuristic style of  painting appears to reflect the bleakness and rigidity of trench warfare and gives a chilling atmosphere.

Despite not strictly being a piece of 'art', WW1 poetry is my favourite period of poetry and Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is in my opinion, the most moving and disturbing account of WW1 (I have never read it and not cried) and additionally, an excellent piece of poetry.

'Dulce et Decorum Est' (skip to 41 seconds for the poem)

5. High Sky 2, Bridget Riley
'Modern art' attracts a lot of debate but Riley's use of colour in this piece is as astonishing and striking as any Da Vinci or Monet piece and the op artists' use of colour and the diverting of the boundaries of common conceptions concerning what can be labelled as 'art'. Riley's High Sky 2 for me is one of the most intriguing and capturing pieces of art I have ever witnessed and one could literally stare at it for hours and it never looks slightly the same. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Olympics - don't believe the hype

Unless you have been living in a cave on the moon for the past seven years you will most likely be aware that this summer, London will play host to the Olympic and Paralympic games. 
In 2005, it was announced that London had beat Paris and would host the games in 2012.

As we are drawing ever and ever closer to the opening ceremony, Olympic fever is apparently upon us, or if it isn't, it should be. I have personally found it incredibly difficult to become encompassed by the spirit, legacy or just general 'atmosphere of excitement' surrounding the Olympics, put simply, I just could not care less. This may prove controversial and I may appear to be an unpatriotic spoilsport but before you think that, just hear me out.

First of all, the cost, as you may well of noticed, the UK as a country is pretty skint at the moment and the recent announcement that we are now in a double dip recession is a sign that despite tough and hard hitting austerity measures, things aren't really picking up. The original budget for the games was estimated to be £2.4bn but by 2007, a mere two years later, this had more than quadrupled to over £9.3bn and this is just what the Government have stated it will cost, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have placed the figure higher at £11bn. The security budget has also been a major concern and was highlighted in a PAC report in March. The original budget for security provision has also almost doubled from £282m to £553m, a worrying sign of serious underestimations in the budgeting. This all comes during claims by the organisers and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the games are under-budget. Doesn't appear that way to me. 

Secondly, and in my opinion, the most concerning and unpleasant element of the games is the massive influence and dominance of advertising from some pretty unfavourable companies. Whilst I am fully aware that an event like this will always require sponsorship from commercial companies to succeed, the particular companies in question either appear to advertise products completely in opposition to the encouragement of sport and wellbeing, Coca-Cola and McDonalds I'm looking in your direction or have some very questionable morals. Take Dow chemicals, who will provide a fabric wrap for the stadium, they were widely believed to be responsible for the one of the worst industrial disasters of all time and despite protests from those in Bhopal, they have still been have been given approval from the PM, to provide sponsorship. The sponsorship from McDonalds, Cadbury and Coca-Cola also seems amusingly ironic for an event which is apparently meant to inspire us all to get involved in sports and this sponsorship has been criticised by UK doctors. There are also reports that those attending the events will only be able to eat and drink certain foods that are official Olympic brands and the largest McDonalds franchise in the UK will also be part of the Olympic village, the food of choice I'm sure for all elite athletes. It strikes me as incredibly galling and rather sad that the entire 'legacy' of the event is being undermined by the main sponsors, the fact that the Olympics also has an official beer raises concerns not only about obesity being promoted through Olympic sponsors but alcoholism and binge drinking too. The Independent put it better than I ever could myself, describing the games as an '£11bn tax payer funded advertising campaign for some of the worst companies'. Hear Hear.

Thirdly, as someone who will be living in London during the games, I am filled with apprehension that the creaking tube and bus system will not be able to cope and travelling around will be even worse than it is now. Anyone who has been on the tube in summer, at rush hour, will be familiar with crowded, sweaty and stuffy trains and a journey where you spend the entire duration with an overweight businessman's armpit in your face and have to barge past a crowd of tourists to squeeze through the door at your stop. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of tourists for the games might just exacerbate this a bit. In the past month or so, bossy but surprisingly nicely illustrated adverts have popped up advising Londoners to walk to work and set off at a different time and announcements are already being made warning Londonders from travelling on certain roads and trains. This angers me even more. I have lived in London for the past 8 months contributing 20 quid a week for the privilege of travelling on an overcrowded tube yet during the games I am being encouraged to feel under obligation to change my shifts and walk to work and this should not bother me because the spirit of the games? Hmm I think not. The housing charity Shelter has also commented that landlords have been raising rents for the duration of the games meaning tenants have had to move out and I have also heard stories of people being forced to 

So, in conclusion, I can imagine most people who read this will think, what a grumpy spoilsport or that I am trying to jeopardise athlete's chances to represent their country, this is not the case at all, I have a lot of admiration for athletes who work very hard and I enjoyed watching the 2008 Olympics, my qualms are with the saturation of advertising from some pretty nasty companies, the ballooning costs and dramatic underestimations and the undoubtedly negative impact this will have upon London's already overstretched transport system and London residents this Summer.

A toast to the Olympics? Well so long as you're drinking a Coke or Maccy D's milkshake, feel free, but I certainly won't be joining you. 

Further reading:

Friday, 27 April 2012

Shaking up Parliament

Despite working in parliament and loving it, I'm not going to lie and say that parliamentary select committee meetings are always the most exciting events in the world. However, the Home Affairs select committee was given some welcome coverage this week with the appearance of the controversial and notorious Russell Brand. 

On Tuesday, the committee, chaired by Keith Vaz MP, were discussing drugs policy and therefore called upon former heroin addict Brand and Chip Somers, the Chief Exec of a drugs charity to speak of their experiences. Understandably, the appearance of the ever divisive Brand prompted comment from a number of sources, some positive but the majority negative. Brand was criticised for not fitting in, not wearing a suit and not behaving in the appropriate parliamentary fashion. The Mail referred to him as a 'stranger in the house' and an 'outlaw'. This prompted a debate amongst me and some friends and raised some more important questions about the role of MPs and how important 'appropriate' parliamentary behaviour really is. 

Now I am certainly not one of Brand's biggest fans, however, as much as I dislike him, he did make some very interesting points and getting a public figure who has had first hand experience with the issue being discussed, something I doubt any of the committee members had, can prove extremely valuable regardless of whether they behave in the normal Westminster fashion. Working in parliament for the past seven months has definitely made me realise that parliament is a bubble and every so often, taking MPs out of their comfort zone is definitely a good thing. His appearance, which could well be seen as a cynical attempt to raise the profile of the committee, did however, give the issue a lot of attention and I doubt the hearing would have received as much commentary without Brand. 

Some commentated saying Brand's comments including calling MPs mate and by their first names was rude. I could not disagree more, there is a big difference between informality and rudeness. Anyone who has ever watched PMQs will notice MPs say far ruder and more aggressive things to each other within the confines of the House of Commons. If MPs are so sensitive to someone taking the mick or God forbid, using a colloquial term such as 'mate' with them then frankly they are in the wrong career. 

The main role of an MP, or what should be the main role, is meeting people, this includes people from all walks of life not just the Etonian Oxbidge educated career politicians that tend to dominate parliament these days, so if they are properly fulfilling their parliamentary duties, people who act like Brand should not shock them. I also hope the MPs had enough nouse to have heard of Brand or to have least researched him before the committee and should have therefore been prepared for his behaviour.

Finally, as with the majority of media coverage, attention was diverted to Brand's behaviour rather than the pure issues surrounding drugs, however, that doesn't sell papers and the media is routinely shabby in its coverage of drug policy. I personally thought Brand's appearance made an interesting change from the usual grey suits who present themselves to Select Committees and hearing first hand from someone who has experienced the issues being discussed is surely valuable and even though he may not have behaved in the typical Westminster fashion, he generated interest and debate and the ends justified the means. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

House of Lords Reform

Thoughts on the Joint Select Committee's Report on House of Lords Reform

Ask ten people on a UK high street what they feel the most important political issues are and I bet you constitutional reforms wouldn't make the top ten (in private polling undertaken last week, exactly 0% of people said that the House of Lords or political reform should be the Government's priority for next year).The economy, unemployment, pensions and the rising cost of living all chart high in everyday people's political concerns as they affect our lives in a noticeable way. So why are issues surrounding constitutional reform, namely reform of the House of Lords in the news today?

Recent reforms to the House of Lords have produced something of a revival in terms of attendance and activity, notably through the introduction of life peers who have become active in the daily activities of the House, especially in committee work. The subordinate position of the Lords is clearly established through the 1911 and 1949 Parliament Acts which constrained the House’s ability to veto a bill for one parliamentary term only. The Salisbury convention also demonstrates the House’s position as an inferior chamber and means the House of Lords will not challenge bills which are in the government’s manifesto. The House of Lords is also unable to challenge money bills and to introduce changes regarding taxation. The cross party nature of the Lords also ensures there is representation from all parties meaning the Commons must compromise and work with the Lords and cannot rely on  a government majority. The fact that a large number of members are life peers also means they are able to fully understand the processes within the House and are able to make a valuable contribution without having to fear the prospect of losing their place.

The House of Lords is a much misunderstood chamber, often referred to as the 'other place', the House currently consists of 786 mainly appointed life peers (down from 1,200 members in 1998). Although commonly called the 'Upper House', the Lords is politically inferior to the Commons in terms of powers and, some would argue, legitimacy. There are numerous issues surrounding the future of the House of Lords and I will try in this blog to present a non bias reflection on the positives and negatives of the Lords and where I feel the future of the House of Lords lies.

The House of Lords: what it does well and arguments it should stay the same
The present functions of the House of Lords can be seen to be; scrutiny, educative, and legislative. The House of Lords plays an unrivalled role in excellent scrutiny of legislation, the expertise present in the House complements the roles of the Commons. The European Union Committee, for example, is made up of around 80 Lords and has been highly praised for its work in scrutinising EU legislation. The Lords often work to fill in the gaps left by the Commons in terms of legislative scrutiny, without constituency pressures and with the wide variety of expertise present in the House of Lords, there is time for very detailed line by line scrutiny of legislation. It is often said that the Lords concentrate on the means rather than the ends of legislation, which is left to the Commons. The anticipated reaction of the Lords in passing legislation also means that the Commons is required to consider bills carefully.  Morning question times also aid in the scrutinising of government activities and allows the House to fuel the process of checks and balances. If there were an elected Second Chamber, this check would have to come from somewhere else, most likely the judiciary, this also raises controversy regarding prospects of Judicial Activism, a big problem in the USA which has two elected chambers
Secondly, as the Lords are free from the demands of constituents, they are able to focus on less sexy, attention grabbing pieces of legislation as they do not need to be concerned with a record to present to constituents. The more relaxed pace of proceedings and less adversarial atmosphere in the Lords also allows amendments to be introduced to ensure that legislation is watertight.
Finally, the Lords also play an important role regarding representation and education. As the membership of the House of Lords is mainly appointed, the House is much more micro-cosmically representative of society than the Commons. The House of Lords had female and BME members before the Commons and the House of Lords also has more disabled members than the Commons such as the late Lord Ashley or paralympian Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. The House also plays a valuable role in education and parliamentary outreach services through measures such as 'Peers in Schools'.

The House of Lords: what needs to change and arguments for reform
Nonetheless, the most obvious argument for reforming the House of Lords is the need for a legitimate and elected second chamber to ensure democracy and bring our polity into the 21st Century, especially as the only other country with a hereditary element to its law makers is Lesotho. Most people would assume that in a democracy, only those who have been elected and therefore have a mandate for power should be able to pass laws that affect the electorate. There is also widespread public support for a reformed second chamber with 69% of participants in a recent YouGov poll supporting a reformed House of Lords. Whilst the Lords do not have constituents and this aids in its scrutiny function, there is an obvious glaring downside to this, they have no constituents and therefore have no effective check on their powers despite the Lord's Whip, they have no need to have a consistent record of hard work .
The presence of Bishops in the House of Lords also raises questions over the representativeness of the House and its relevance in today's society. With only 7% of the UK calling themselves practising Christians and two thirds not having attended church in the past year, the influential role reserved for 26 Bishops in our legislature does raise concerns. Although religious diversity in the Lords has been improved by the appointment of a Cheif Rabbi, this only means that two of the major religions in the UK are represented, undermining arguments that the Lords are a more representative chamber. The argument that the House of Lords should also remain the why it is due to the expertise present is weakened by the statistic that only 10% of Lords are 'experts' and 41% are former politicians, councillors etc, it can also be argued that this expertise can be sought externally and this does not have to come from members of the House. 
Representation would also not necessarily be lost if the House were elected. If a proportional, preferential electoral system were used to elect the Lords such as STV or an open party list this would allow voters to choose between candidates and if they wish and select more women or BME candidates. 
Finally, although the House of Lords has seen a revival in attendance and activity in recent times, average attendance for Lords in 2009-10 was 388, significantly less than the total membership of the House. Although the Lords use significantly less resources than the Commons and do prove fairly good value for money, Lords can still claim up to £300 per sitting day attended, given there are some rather wealthy individuals in the Lords, a certain Lord Sugar springs to mind and even though these wealthier members will most likely not claim this allowance, it does still raise questions about the financial viability of the House.

In conclusion, I still really don't know where I stand on the issue of the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrat in me naturally veers towards the need for election for the sheer value of democracy and legitimacy and to haul our largely unreformed house in to the 21st century but from studying the current role of the Lords and the contributions it does make to our political and legislative system it is not as black and white as that. An elected second chamber would also potentially cause friction between the two houses if it were more powerful than the Commons, or more legitimate if a proportional system were used, or if it were only partly elected, it could prove to be superfluous to the Commons yet more expensive or potentially dilute the supremacy of the Commons. 

Whilst the issues of constitutional reform are of interest to myself and several of my politics student friends, most people who aren't politics students will see the attention around this issue as the wrong question at the wrong time and believe that the Coalition Government should be focussing its attentions on more pressing issues like the economy. The reform of the House of Lords and the issues it presents will not go away and reform will be a long slog, however, the public must be consulted at every stage and all arguments should be taken into account.
Norton, P. (2005). 'Parliament in British Politics', (Palgrave, Basingstoke) p.36