Thursday, 23 June 2011

Democracy or the House of Lords

It's perhaps only natural that the debate on the Governments Bill to reform the House of Lords should further illustrate how out of touch our Peers of the realm remain. When the Tories are cast as the defenders of democracy you can tell how ridiculously skewed the debate has become.

David Cameron proposes that 80% of the House of Lords should be elected. And you might be forgiven for thinking the controversy centres on why only 80%? After all we don't elect 80% of the Commons do we or our Holyrood Parliament or our Councils? But this is no ordinary conflict. No, the Labour Party is against any elections at all!

There are many political issues where you would be hard pushed to spot any difference between Labour and the Tories.They are almost identical and reactionary on imperialist wars, privatisation, neo-liberal globalisation,savage public spending cuts, assaults on the living standards of working people, pensions, political corruption and nepotism. I could go on and on but here's one issue where Labour is substantially more reactionary than even 'the blue rinse brigade'.

In the past the Tories defended hereditary peerages and argued against an elected second chamber. This way they kept their inbuilt and substantial majority there. Labour meanwhile, for almost a century, rightly called for the abolition of the House of Lords. Now in a complete reversal of positions the Tories support democratisation, albeit partial, and Labour opposes it.

Labour's position is almost unbelievable. Ed Milliband's opposition to an elected second chamber is, like Blair and Brown's before him, based on the spurious argument that the power vested in the House of Commons would be undermined by other politicians given a mandate by the electorate. Labour wants to keep an appointed House of Lords in order to prevent it becoming a bulwark against decisions taken by the Commons.

You might think extending democracy would be a better argument, but no. And the Liberals are no better. I heard the preposterous Lord Steel of Aikwood argue on Radio Four this morning, that the public do not want 'politicians appointed by political parties sitting in the upper House'. This from David Steel an old buffer who picks up his £350 per day having been leader of the Liberals and appointed by Tony Blair on a grace and favour basis for service to the corrupt political establishment.

Countries all over the world have bicameral Parliaments with two elected chambers. The extension of such democracy would undoubtedly be a good thing for Britain but of course it rightly sounds the death knell for the nonsensical privilege and unelected placemen and women in the House of Lords.If you think the composition of the House of Commons is completely unrepresentative of the British population, and it is, the House of Lords is another world of aliens altogether.

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