Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Monday, 23 April 2012

Lords Reform – Why not Primacy for the People?


There is concern within the political class that the proposal to elect members to the House of Lords will create a conflict over primacy between the two Houses. This problem does not exist at present because MPs are elected by the people, whereas the Lords are appointed or achieve there membership through the hereditary principle.

The existing order implies that, as a democracy, it is the people who are of greatest import.

The Independent reports that a parliamentary committee has recommended that there should be a referendum on a change in the make up of the House of Lords. The proposal, to have 80% elected and 20% appointed, seems to be supported by Cameron, if not by Clegg.

Although the change might seem a step forward, is it sufficiently different to create a much needed ‘wind of change’ at Westminster? Although, no doubt, there would be some celebrities who will stand and be elected, it will be, in the main, the party’s election machines that will ensure the Lords is dominated by the existing political class.

Considering some of the unpopular and/or contorted policies implemented in recent times, surely some checks need to be applied to the acts of the party in power.

Perhaps the most outrageous was Blair’s agreement to support Bush’s plan to invade Iraq. The ‘Dodgy Dossier‘, that Alastair Campbell had produced, claimed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them – this convinced the majority that the war was necessary – although subsequent events have proved this not to be the case.

It was also Blair who chose to significantly increase the number of immigrants allowed into the country. Apart from the very clear problems this has caused through a clash of cultures, particularly Muslims whose faith is not simply a religion, but also a political system, it will also cause the population to increase more rapidly because the birth rate of, again the Muslims, will ensure poor housing, increased pressure on schools and the health serve.

The overwhelming disadvantage of this policy, however, is likely to be feeding so many extra people. Presently we can feed only 50% of the population, this will reduce as the population increases. Already we are seeing large global corporations controlling increasingly large proportions of the commodity market which is causing prices to rise. As these corporations gain larger shares, there is no doubt that prices will steadily increase – for that is the purpose of trying to gain a monopoly.

We may be concerned that the price of oil continues to rise, but does not seem to fall when there is a glut because we are now a net importer of oil. However, there are replacements for oil – there are none for food!

Perhaps the most undemocratic act by a government in recent times was Brown’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. At the time 80% wanted a referendum on the matter and polls showed that more than two thirds did not want the Treaty signed. This has led to additional major costs being incurred by the UK, apart from the steady stream of legislation from the EU that increasingly binds the UK governments from taking the actions they would choose.

Devolution has proved to be yet another policy that has had huge impact and has seriously disadvantaged the English in comparison to the Scots. Blair did offer regional government in England, but it was a second rate proposal that he only half-heartedly pursued. Cameron, rather than seeking to be even-handed has tried to rush to a settlement aimed at preventing the Scots from leaving the Union with no attempt to provide England with its own Parliament to provide equality. This imbalance has caused a rising tide of discontent within the English and is bound to lead to future conflict.

Although devolution was started by Blair and is being further corrupted by Cameron, he alone started the process of privatising the Health Service – against the will of the people. This along with the plan to lower the rate of tax for the highest paid along with many other, poorly thought through, policies within the context of austerity has shown that the Coalition government are equally prepared to introduce policies unwanted by the people.

What these policies demonstrate is that any changes made to the Lords must include a method by which the people are included in controversial plans. The most obvious way to do this, and to resolve the issue of primacy with elected Lords, is to provide for the calling of a referendum by the Lords where to two houses could not agree.

Now that more than 70% are connected to the internet, and it is considered sufficiently secure for internet banking, referendums need not be expensive or long drawn out affairs. Provided that public internet connections are provided to those who do not have this service. The internet could also be used to ensure that MPs vote in accordance with the wishes of the people who they purport to represent, rather than their party leader, on key issues as referendums could be easily run within each constituency. For surely the concept of representative democracy, as presently operated, is the greatest abuse of true democracy.

Presently the political class argue that any direct involvement of the people in the political process is pointless because of low turnout rates for other elections. However, whilst more than 60% believe that their elected representative persistently lie and that it make no difference what the people want – the politicians will do what benefits them, Murdoch or their main financial donors – is it any wonder that people do not feel bothered to vote?

As demonstrated by the French, who had a turnout of more than 80% in the first round of their Presidential elections, if the people do believe a candidate can and will make a difference to their lives – they will take great interest and turn out to vote in great numbers. Or was this intrinsically an outcome of their Revolution?

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