9 September 2012

A Tale Of Two Houses

I wrote this a while back for a friend who's active in Plaid Cymru, hence referring to the AV vote...

After the debacle that was the AV referendum, everyone will be delighted to hear the Liberals are at it again - this time with plans to reform the House of Lords. A draft bill introduced by the UK Government proposes that 80% of the house will be elected on a fifteen-year, non-renewable mandate via the STV method. Whilst this in itself will doubtless appear reasonable to the vast majority of the UK electorate,  of the actual powers granted to the house, the bill's foreword summarises...

"We propose no change to the constitutional powers and privileges of the House once it is reformed, nor to the fundamental relationship with the House of Commons, which would remain the primary House of Parliament."

And herein lies the problem. Whilst the UK electorate is largely opposed to the nepotistic means by which most peers have taken their seats over the centuries, in times when an increasing proportion of the electorate feels disenfranchised by the scores of traitors & miscreants who abuse their positions in the Commons, it's hard to believe that the electorate will engage in a process which seeks to elect more of the same to a house which serves barely any legislative purpose. By whichever means members take their seats in the reformed House of Lords, it is and shall remain nothing more than a place where political careers go to die.

Whilst this inconsequential bill, which lacks political support in both houses, will serve only to plunge the Liberals further into the hole that they've been desperately trying to dig themselves out of since they joined the coalition, it does pose an important question to nationalists in both Scotland and Wales.

As the Lords is little more than a hangover from the days of feudalism, with its functions & powers subject to the whims of the government of the day, it is regularly used by unicameralists to repudiate the adoption of a multicameral legislature in a post-independence scenario. Not only is this argument spurious, but its also dangerous - in keeping with the notion that "the only problem with a one party state is that it's one party too many", it can't have escaped the attention of nationalists in both Scotland and Wales that unchallenged, the Labour Party will loot, pillage and probably even sack the odd city or two.

After winning our independence, despite whatever confidence we have in our initial government, it would be naive to suggest that things would not change. We already know that when the UK economy is strong (as our independent economies would undoubtedly also be), the electorate tends to vote Labour. Whilst the Labour Party may not exist in its current form, the blackguards that constitute its ranks will still be here, so we need to ensure we have appropriate measures in place to stop them running amok.

The best way to do this would be for parliament to have two chambers - but unlike Westminster, both chambers would have real power. The system is simple - whilst only the lower chamber would have the power to introduce bills, before these bills could become law they would have to gain the assent of both chambers. Members of both chambers would be elected via the STV method - subject to a caveat whereby no party could gain a majority in the upper chamber.

Critics will immediately point to the likelihood that such a system would create political deadlock between the two chambers, but rather than being a flaw, this is the whole point. Independence is not simply about breaking the shackles of London-rule, it's an opportunity for our respective nations to shape our futures - and a future without entrenched Labour corruption can only be a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment