Lording it over us

Securing the first elected president for Afghanistan is a major achievement and if elections are held in Iraq, then America and her allies will have achieved much to make the world a better, safer place. Yet the war on terror, that’s brought about these very positive results, threatens to erode British liberties in the name of freedom. And the ease with which our liberties are eroded highlights the continuous need to test and question the quality of our own democracy. The ease with which a strong government can cast liberties to one side highlights that democracy’s deficiencies.

Britain’s an incredibly stable country and some argue that we tamper with our constitution at our peril. But that’s all rather silly. In truth a long history, and our collective failure to write down the rules, has created many anomalies. One of the greatest anomalies, a left over from our feudal days, is the House of Lords, our entirely unelected chamber of life members, which still contains a handful who orginally inherited their right to legislate. At present members are effectively appointed by the Prime Minister and there’s nothing in law to stop a Prime Minister from appointing many thousands of supporters if s/he so wishes. The only reason they don’t is such an action would expose the sham chamber for what it is.

Anyway. This is a campaign that can be won. The majority of MPs favour reform, as do all the major parties. Yet Labour is vague and conservative (the Tories apparently think 80 per cent should be elected, but you’ll struggle to find that on their website). Many will argue that constitutional reform hardly features on the electorate’s radar. That’s just a ruse to hold on to the last vestiges of feudal power and privilege a little longer. Those with power don’t like to give it up. So visit www.electthelords.org.uk and let the powers that be know you think a quality democracy’s as important to Britain as it is to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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