the Disillusioned kid: Lording Over It
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lording Over It

Today marks the 94th anniversary of the passing of the Parliament Act 1911. This was only ever intended to be a temporary measure and the preable asserted that "it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation." Here we are 94 years later, little closer to the constitution of a Second Chamber on a "popular" (i.e. democratic) basis. Sure, we've had some reforms, but all they really mean is that most of the hereditaries have been replaced by patronage - Tony Blair has been able to appoint more people to the House of Lords than any other Prime Minister.

To mark this anniversary and to push for further reform, Elect the Lords have declared today Lords Reform Day. They have asked bloggers to mark this and raise awareness about the campaign by writing about it on their blogs. There was a pledge which people could sign up to in order to demonstrate their support (an idea, incidentally, which inspired this). Typically late off the blocks, I missed the deadline on this, but thought I'd chip in anyway.

Those of you who followed this blog during the elections will be aware that I am more than a little cynical about what passes for democracy in this country. (Those of you who didn't might care to read this, which will give you some idea of where I stand). Despite my criticisms, I still believe that an elected Second Chamber is better than an unelected one. The basic reason for this is that I see democracy not so much as a specific way of doing things, but as a scale against which different systems can be judged. The greater the degree of popular participation in decision making, the greater the degree of democracy. In this view, liberal democracy is actually not all that democratic, given that the main choice you make is who you are going to select to make decisions for you. Nevertheless, such a system is still much more democratic than a dictatorship. An anarchist utopia in which workers controlled the means of production and organised society co-operatively would, of course, be yet more democratic.

Anything which extends popular participation is, I would argue, a good thing and a step in the right direction. This is not to suggest that it brings us any closer to the kind of fundamental social change which I think is desirable, but given that such a change looks to be someway of at the present time, it's a start.

Subsequent Update: See what others have to say on the matter here.

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