Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 19 March 2004

House of Lords 'reform' is put on hold

I have no especial attachment to the idea of having hereditary peers continuing to play a part in one of the legislative chambers of this country. But I do object strongly to a government, or anyone else, multilating a functioning (and pretty productive) part of our democratic process without proposing someting definite, and preferably at least as democratic in its nature or at least not open to partisan manipulation, to replace it.

The government has finally abandoned its current plan to push legislation through abolishing the right of the current rump of less than 100 hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords. It states that it will attempt to pass legislation when it has reached a 'consensus', but after 7 years in power this excuse is wearing thin.

The government's desire to have a wholly appointed second chamber has no more democratic legitimacy than a chamber including hereditary peers - there needs to be some kind of public and democratic input on who may sit in the 'revising' chamber, precisely with the aim of acting as a check on the effectively unlimited power of a government with an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. This is something this government absolutely wishes to deny the British people, it would appear. This desire to maintain the supremacy of the House of Commons at all costs has its origins in the time when Parliament sought to limit the power of an absolute monarchy, but is no longer justifiable in an era when our monarchy, which I support broadly, is largely symbolic in nature. The notion of the absolute sovereignty of parliament derives from the same 'divine right' philosophy that cost the Stuart dynasty the throne and it is time that this government realised (and indeed other political parties, too - think Sir Edward Heath and his very similar views on this matter) that its power derives from the voters and that they have a right to demand a say in the composition of the House of Lords, just as they already have a right to choose who may sit in the House of Commons. My personal preference is to have a wholly elected second chamber, perhaps using some kind of proportional representation (althoough this has the obvious danger of allowing the major political parties to select their 'placemen' for the proportional lists).

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