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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The frustrating process of reform

One of the most frustrating aspects of being involved in politics is how long it takes to get anything done. Combined with the irreversible diminution of the powers of Parliament in the face of international political decision-making and the multi-national economy it is difficult to see how anybody can get anything worthwhile done any more, and yet they do.

Progress in the area of constitutional reform is particularly slow, largely because it has proceeded piecemeal and without any overarching vision on the part of this government, but also because it is considered low priority, only wheeled out when Ministers need a distraction to make voters think that they are changing things. Such has been the fate of the House of Lords, an issue that has been reopened by the Government in recent months but still appears to be going nowhere.

Indeed The Times reports today that hereditary peers could limp on for decades despite Labour introducing legislation this week that ends the principle that sons and daughters of peers can inherit their places in the Lords. It seems that the 92 that remain will only leave the House when they die, or when the Government finally moves towards a fully elected second chamber, which could itself be 20 years away.

The paper says that twelve years after Labour came to power promising to reform the Lords, young hereditary peers such as Lord Freyberg, aged 38, can still look forward to staying there for some time yet.

The current bill life gives peers the right to resign their seats. It also gives the Lords' authorities the power to expel or suspend peers found guilty of misconduct, offers Parliament more say over declarations of war, enhances the independence of the civil service but sadly also limits protests in Parliament Square.

We are going to have to wait for a second much larger Bill in the autumn before MPs can debate plans to turn the current House of Lords into one where 80 or 100 per cent of its members are fully elected and that process will take three Parliaments to complete.

It is a pathetically timid compromise that fails to grasp the need for democratic reform and one that only touches on a small part of the bigger constitutional agenda. There is no vision here at all, just expediency.
. . .and thus it has always been. Once in power, the urge to change the status quo seems to just melt away. I have seen it at many levels - people fear change - so if you are on the top of the pile - why create change if you don't have to. That's why revolutions (or at least rebellions) happen.
There is simply no will for it. Parliament has already voted for an elected second house at least a couple of times. Trouble is, it's such a nice little 'pension' for people the party wants to prize. It has to be said that the Lords protected our liberties when our MPs were too slow (or too wedded to the party) to do so. We won't see any constitutional change, only a (depressing) change in government next year.
We need a step change, in fact I think we need a revolution, Parliment hasn't changed much since the time of Oliver Cromwell.

I would go in-far-as-saying, we need an "Oliver Cromwell" figure now, we are living in the 21st Century, why do we need or even have a monarchy? Get rid of them, Oliver Cromwell got rid of the first King Charles, let hope the third King Charles goes the same way?
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