Sunday, July 15, 2012

Noble Lies

Tory back-benchers don't give a toss. Do they rebel over civil liberties, inequality, wars, or corruption in the financial sector? No, they do not. But touch the House of Lords at your peril. It is no great insight that one principle in a democracy is that anyone who helps to make laws should be elected. Hypocrites though they may be, all Tories as did all candidates for Labour and the LibDems campaigned on a manifesto promising Lords reform. Officially, none of them believed that the upper house was perfect and none believed it to be untouchable.

But no sooner is there talk of Lords reform than the back-tracking begins with talk of constitutional vandalism, attacks on the British way of life, an assault on noble traditions. What they really mean is they want no change to an institution they treat as their own. It is a nonsense to pretend that the present upper house is somhow apolitical. Once you discount Anglican bishops, and so many peers disqualified for various reasons, there are 775 individuals who get to wear ermine and a full 560 declare their party affiliations and most vote accordingly. Those Tory rebels are happy enough to declare that elections are no big deal in their version of democracy. Some of them also want to preserve the remaining hereditary peers, apparently in the belief that a sense of civic duty is genetic. They believe that inviting voters to meddle in the higher reaches of establishment life is an affront. This is their country, and always has been.

Once again, there is little chance now of democratic reform and the public is therefore left to wonder why, if the three main political parties are supposedly so keen on the idea they cannot all agree. The answer is simple enough: what they say is not what they mean.

The LibDems have had only more than a century since the efforts of the Liberal Government in 1911 to think about it since the first efforts of the Liberal Government in 1911. And what has been the suggestions? Having "senators",  or whatever they might be called, elected for terms of 15 years? It is a bad idea to have anyone, Even a golf club constitution understands offering a guaranteed position for 15 years is a bad idea. Allow the candidates to be chosen by the party list system? Those of us in Scotland recognise the defect of this recipe will be patronage for favours and will  keep out those liable to be independent of the party leadership.

SOYMB wonders if all those LibDems and Labour MPs are so opposed to an undemocratic and unreformed House of Lords does this mean they will be refusing a peerage when offered? Somehow, we doubt that very much!

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