Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reform!

 My youthful respect for the ennobled peers of the realm diminished in later years as it became apparent that their chief interest and predominant role was to serve the interests of few but themselves.

I have been delighted to find that my successors took up this worthy cause and about 100 years ago clipped the wings of this noble beast, a task that my generation balked at. I have been equally surprised to see the slow progress made by the socialists in bringing reform to this institution; perhaps I should not be surprised as the party of Labour appears to have entrenched itself as the party of the classes, rather than the masses. Therefore the main interest of their ministers appears to have been to create a safe haven for their comrades and, in recent decades, a place of reward for favoured friends of the party.

The scandal that has erupted this week is merely the outcome of a century of timidity; of failure to complete the unfinished business of the Glorious Revolution. For it remains the case that the first-born male of a British noble family has a vote worth 5,000 times that of a common person; indeed such a person has more power over the legislature than the Queen herself.

It is not the off-spring of noble families who are the subject of scandal this week, however; it is those unworthy appointments made by the Labour party.

I do not resent a smattering of wisdom in the Upper Chamber; nor do I resent the presence of the Archbishop or indeed the Chief Rabbi. I am perplexed that the masses of Great Britain continue to have no means whatsoever by which they can elect or appoint their representatives to this chamber; it is most peculiar that a people deemed able to select a Prime Minister (albeit not the present one) are deemed unable to recognise the rudiments of wisdom within candidates for the House of Lords. It is hardly surprising that a population treated in such a fashion should turn their attention to votes on matters of trivia and gossip rather than those of state importance.

Indeed I note the present government promised to appoint People's Peers; and yet failed to appoint a single person of common occupation or humble station.

It is heartening to hear Mr Clegg carrying the ancient Liberal banner this week; Reform! must be his clarion call.

WEG

4 comments:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It was my impression that Mr. Blair's government altered not only the balance against hereditary peers, but even the constitution of Britain by allowing non-conformist clerics in to the upper chamber. As the House of Lords has little say in the construction of legislation as it is, of what consequence would the appointment, or even election, of peers be, other than a further altering of the British Constitution?

WEG said...

The House of Lords has every say in the construction of legislation, sir. It can insert amendments, delete sections and continue to hold the Government to ransom over the passage of laws. It is true the present government has made limited reforms; but it is dependent on a process of appointment and patronage, a process that has been subject to abuse for the majority of the past 100 years so far as I can ascertain.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I stand corrected, then. It is reminiscent, then, of Mr. Churchill's lament that what was needed was not more peerages, but perhaps some disapeerages.

I remember seeing a speech by a Labor member of the upper house early in Mr. Blair's first government, speaking on Reform, and one point he returned to was removing certain voting rights from hereditary peers, reserving them for life peers only. Not paying close attention at the time - having a small child and a career to jumpstart took up far more of my time - I assumed that the proposal was accepted without too much amending.

Some direction, perhaps, on where I, as a non-British citizen, could get information.

WEG said...

"Disapeerages"! - The Churchill family always displayed some talent with words. It is my understanding that the reforms you mention took place and that members of the great families now have to vote between themselves to decide who shall sit in the Other Place. Subsequent to that it was suggested, and indeed made the subject of investigation by the constabulary, that a number of new peers obtained their appointments by making donations to Government projects. Such allegations appear to have been common throughout the 20th century - and are reminiscent of the systems of appointment by purchase and recommendation in the military and the civil service prior to the reforms instituted by myself.