Thursday, March 08, 2007

One day they will have full democracy too...

MPs in the British House of Commons yesterday delivered a historic vote in favour of a wholly-elected House of Lords, setting themselves up for a confrontation with peers that could lead to the most radical change to the upper house for 96 years.

It is by far not certain that this plan will actually be implemented, so Britain may still be stuck with an unelected upper house of Parliament for years to come. If Zimbabwe had such a constitutional arrangements, everyone and his aunty would have had a fit. But of course, Britain is seen as "civilised" (why that would be, I cannot tell), so having an unelected house of Parliament is not seen as undemocratic.

A few years ago when the Commons voted to lower the age of consent for same sex sexual activity to bring it in line with heterosexual sex the Lords vetoed the Act, so it is not as if they have no power or never use their power. But then, what does one expect of a country whose leader has been a cheerleader for George W Bush?

1 comment:

Mal said...

The weird status of the Lords has long been recognised in Britain as a big problem among their many other constitutional problems (I'm thinking of their voting system as another major example and, of course the biggie is their lack of an actual written Constitution).

Back in 1911 the then Liberal administration passed the first Parliament Act, which restricted the power of the Lords by allowing the Commons an overriding veto which, in the event, has hardly ever been used - but only because the Act's existence has been used as cold blackmail repeatedly. There has already been a second Parliament Act this century with the same aim.

Now it occurs to me that this creeping adhockery has had the effect of gradually emasculating the powers of the Lords just at the point that the second house might become more democratic. (I emphasise 'might' because I'm personally sceptical - a pliant Lords is more useful to the government than a democratic one.)

What a travesty, then: to give the people of Britain the power to elect their second house, but at the same time to destroy any power or even influence of the house.

My suggestion to the Brits - start at the top. Write your Constitution down first.