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Links I found interesting for 21-07-2013


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2013 01:34 pm (UTC)
"This article paints a rosy picture of how the Lords has improved, but the institution is far from perfect. Many elements of its composition in particular remain difficult to defend. The most obvious is the continued use of byelections to replace hereditary peers when they die (for the 92 such members who can still sit under the 1999 Act)."

Er, no, the most obvious is the complete lack of any democratic accountability whatsoever.
Jul. 21st, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
I think reasonable people can disagree on this.

The fact that new appointments are made either by a democratically elected official (the PM) or else by an expert commission is I think relevant, and softens (though certainly does not remove) the charge of lack of democratic accountability. (The Clegg reform would not have helped much there either, as members were to be elected for non-renewable terms; you could vote them in, but not out.)

The by-elections for hereditary peers, however, are genuinely scandalous in democratic principle, even by the low standards of British constitutional practice, and IMHO the article is right to draw attention to them.

Personally I disagree with both points of view. To me, by far the most ludicrous bit of current House of Lords arrangements is the presence of 26 Church of England bishops in the chamber, and one of the many flaws of the Clegg reform was that it would have increased the percentage of Lords Spiritual in the total number.

It will be interesting to see how the Irish debate goes. Political parties who promised to vote for the abolition of the Senate in the last election are now backtracking in the face of intimidation from their own Senators; but I suspect that the electorate will deliver a pretty firm answer when asked if they would like to cut the number of salaried national parliamentarians by 30%.
Jul. 21st, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
The democratic tincture acquired by the PM's being elected by his constituents as an MP and by his party as leader (of course no one votes for a PM as such) is pretty darn tenuous as a conduit through which to justify the democratic standing of an entire legislative chamber. I wonder whether there was ever a voter whose choice was swayed by the consideration of the PM's likely consequent appointments to the Lords? Possibly when Tony Benn (I think?) suggested appointing 10,000 lords to vote for their own dissolution - probably not since.

Of course, I agree that the other matters you mention are scandalous, but their scandalousness is camouflaged by the larger scandal, to my mind.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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