Sunday, 10 August 2014

Some thoughts on the House of Lords

Congratulations to Ex Kirklees Lib-Dem Leader Cllr Kath Pinnock on her elevation to the House of Lords. I'm sure she will make valuable contributions to political life there and be a working peer. I look forward to hearing her official title' Baroness Pinnock of Cleckeaton' maybe? The latest round of Lords appointments brought the  not unexpected controversey, a number of big donors to the Tory Party got their rewards by being appointed to 'The Lords'. For the Lib Dems this latest round of appointments takes their numbers over the 100 mark. The Green Party has 1 member in the House of Lords, 'Baroness Jones of Moulscomb' or Jenny to her freinds. Moulscomb is the name of the Council Estate in Brighton where she grew up and when she was 'signed up' for the Lords she wore a fake ermine gown for the ceremony so really proud of Jenny for sticking to her principles on that one.

Did I mention 'principles'? It is always interesting talking about 'principles' and the House of Lords. A few thoughts. Recently in the news we had the positive news that women could soon become Bishops in the Church of England as that institution comes kicking and screaming into the 20th Century just as we are well into the 21st. What I found bizarre was the lack of much mention that this progressive move would mean that these new women bishops would find themselves automatically appointed to the archaic unelected House of Lords. OK quick quiz question, 'Which 2 countries allow religious priests into their legislative bodies?' Ok you know one, it's the UK right! The other is another beloved well respected democracy, yes you guessed it, Iran! Is there any logic to having people in the House of Lords, who represent a body that as a central tenet believes in the supernatural? Well they have gone through an election process of sorts from within their membership unlike many Tory donors . I'm always happy when someone stands up to the many Government policies which I regard as regressive and that is often Bishops in the absence of many political defenders. It does however make me feel uncomfortable that these champions of the underprivileged seem about as relevant as the wizards in Hogwarts Castle. They are generally benign but the fact that I am reluctant to see them go is more a reflection of the awful state of our backwards democracy more than any logical argument for their retention. in our legislature.

This brings us, (on the subject of principles and the House of Lords) to House of Lords reform, the Coalition Agreement and the Liberal Democrats. It was going to be great, well better anyway. We were going to have a wholly (or mainly) elected second chamber elected by proportional representation with 450 members. The draft bill when it went in front of Parliament in 2011 was by no means perfect. There were still appointments and 12 'Lords Spiritual'. Ultimately 91 Tory MPs defied their Government Whip and Labour didn't exactly cover themselves in glory by effectively allowing the status quo to continue.So it was dead in the water and so much for the Coalition Agreement. Future appointments to the House of Lords were to reflect Party shares of the votes at the 2010 General Election but definitely not the 2014 Euro Election where the Greens beat the Lib Dems. I'd like to see more Greens in the House of Lords influencing policy but I find it bizarre that the archaic House of Lords is allowed to continue in existence as well as still having elections by the 'first past the Past system. We are truly a backwards excuse for a 'democracy'. We may well be the mother of all democracies but our children have by far surpassed us and left us behind.

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