Saturday, 10 March 2007

In Defence of the House of Lords (II)

If you've not read my previous post, I advise you do so before reading this one. The first reason being that the original post is the basis for this one, and I'll assume you've read it. the second being that this is a little provocative, and the former is more moderate.

Aristocracy

Why can't we have Lords in the Lords? Does it not make so much more sense to anyone else? In my last post I advocated an undemocratic Chamber. This is how I'd form one: returning to our pre-1911 constitution. What we would have is as follows:

  • An 'Upper House' widely accepted to be less powerful than the elected Chamber. If it flouts the will of the people too excessively, it can be compelled by the Monarch (as in 1832).
  • However, there is no statutary system to do this. No Parliament Act: the lords can still veto Bills, unless they are of great significance, when the Crown intervenes.
  • Life Peers and the hereditary Lords sit in the Chamber, along with 26 Anglican bishops. They are the Lords Spiritual and Temporal.

You may think that this is remarkably bizarre as a suggestion. But I would suggest itis not as absurd as it seems. Hereditary Lords and Life Peers keep their seats for life. They never habve to fear about losing them. Thus they can be entirely independent. they do not have to follow a Party line; they do not have to baulk from courageous policies. Experts have suggested that they are the most democratic part of our Parliament. Remeber that our Parliament is based of the people electing local representatives to speak on their behalf. With such extensive whipping as we now have, does this actually happen? No. We simply have an almost-Presidential system.

But that is somewhat beside the point. There was never any justified reason to crush the Hosue of Lords other than party-political advantage. In 1911, the Liberals wanted to 'stop the electoral rot', and so went for the Lords. Purely to win votes. Not in the name of democracy, but Liberalism. In 1999, Tony Blair did the same. The Lords had blocked some of his policies, so he removed the Tory majority in the Lord by throwing hundreds of them out. Is it worth observing that there's now a pronounced Labour majority?

At present

What we have currently is a reasonable system. The great and the good get seats. But it's too open to abuse. The cash for peerages scandal - whether the allegations are true or not - show how easy it is for such corruption and adulteration of our Parliament to take place. What we need, therefore, is a system where the great are automatically given seats.

I'd now like to be exceedingly controversial. Success breads success. 'Some are born great, some achieve greatness.' But why do we attack those who are born into titles? I've not heard a convinncing argument why hereditary power is bad. It's not democratic, but so what? Democracy is not mandatory.

Conclusion

What I advocate, therefore, is a return to decent, British democracy. Not the absolute rule of the mobile vulgus, easily swayed by whim and cheap journalism. But a new triple chord, whereby the Commons, the Lords, and the Crown govern the country. The Commons rule; the Lords check. But the checks should not be over-powered as they are not. And the Crown checks the Lords. How do we get the Lords? Take those who are born to rule. Those who have been brought up by rulers. Who have it ingrained from birth, as a duty and a responsibility. They ran the country well. They gave us the democracy we have now. Lords Grey, John Russell, Beaconsfield, and Salisbury are responsible for each of the three great Reform Acts of the Nineteenth Century. So one can't even say that they were only protecting their own interests. they acted with preceptive duty and responsibility.

Let them do so again.

P

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Disraeli (not a lord) was responsible for the Second Reform Act, and Gladstone for the Third. I broadly support your arguments, but you have too much faith in the integrity of the aristocracy. An oligarchy involving corporate rule by the aristocracy, the gentry and the urban elite may be better. Rather than a House of Lords, maybe some form of House of powerful interests might be better?

Our system is not presidential as you say, because presidential systems have a separation of powers (with the executive and legislature elected separately) and greater checks and balances. The UK system is entirely unique.

Yes we should have threefold government, but the Bill of Rights of 1689 or whenever it was was unconstitutional and should go. Parliament has no right to choose the monarch. It was a victory for Whiggery.