Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Reforming the House of Lords.

A small article caught my eye in the papers yesterday which reported that the first woman Commons speaker, Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, has suggested a plan to trim the House of Lords - which would do her out of a job.

She wants the number of Lords cut from 785 to 400 and to make retirement at 75 or 80 compulsory - Boothroyd is 88. These are the types of recommendations contained in our second demand 'Real Local Democracy'.

She also wants to end the 'election' which takes place when one of the 92 hereditary peers retires. She feels  this is an anomaly in a 21st-century democracy and said "when they fall off the perch, that's it!"

These ideas seem eminently reasonable and sensible but how will they ever come to fruition?

The answer to that is fairly simple to answer which is that if enough people want such a reform and demand it then it would be difficult for any government to ignore the wishes of the people. However what is also very clear is that until and unless the people start to demand such reforms the turkeys in Westminster are sure as hell not going to be voting for Christmas as the House of Lords is the ideal dumping ground and or cosy retirement refuge for our MPs and their buddies.

On the subject of Lords reform I was directed recently to the history of the Irish Senate by Edward Spalton who is chairman of  the long established Campaign for an Independent Britain.

Although the upper house of the Irish Free State was established in 1922, its powers were subsequently reduced in 1936 after it attempted to obstruct some constitutional reforms favoured by the government. Members of the 60 seat Senate can still only serve for 12 years with a quarter of the house standing for election every 3 years.

However the really interesting thing about the Senate is that when it was set up it could call for a referendum on government legislation if three-fifths of its members agreed. This power still exists today, even after the 1936 reforms, but while it now only requires a majority of Senators to agree it must also have agreement from one-third of the Dail. This power has never been used as the modern Senate is designed in such a way as to have a permanent government majority.

The overriding lesson that I get from this is that without the people being recognised as sovereign, and confirmed as such in a written constitution, then any government is free to change the rules of the game without consulting the people. Clearly the Dail was not prepared to have their Senate capable of stopping their legislation by calling for a people's referendum on the matter at hand.

While power is clearly not yet in our hands it could be and all it will take is enough of us deciding we are fed up with being governed by our current batch of  charlatans. 

The choice as they say is ours to make.


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