Saturday, March 10, 2007

MPs vote for an elected House of Lords

This week MPs voted for a fully elected second chamber in Parliament. It's not what the government wanted, and not what anyone expected but the vote came out with a clear majority for a 100% democratically elected House of Lords. This vote is 'indicative' not binding on ministers, but it gives a very clear signal.

I'd say it's about time. Frankly I find it embarassing that the lower house of the Parliament that runs this country is made up of heredity peers, appointees, and worst of all 26 Church of England bishops. It's a blight on our democracy, and needs reforming.

I always find it curious and a bit annoying that in America there is such organisations as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to maintain a separation that is already constitutionally established; whereas in the UK, where there is no separation of church and state, there is no such organisation to campaign to create that separation.

One organisation that does want a separation of church and state is Ekklesia. I really like the stuff that comes out from them. About this vote they said, "This vote indicates clear support for bringing an end to an historical anomaly in the Second Chamber which has done no favours for either church or state.

"The removal of bishops from the House of Lords is long overdue. It has been a travesty that 26 men sit in Parliament simply because an undemocratic religious institution, in a curious conjunction with Government, has appointed them as their leaders.

"The presence of 26 bishops in Parliament implies that one brand of Christianity should be given special status over all other religions and belief systems. Not only is it at odds with democratic values, it is at odds with Christian values. Reform is long overdue, and the Government should now respond to the way that MPs have voted, and give their backing to the complete removal of bishops from the House of Lords."

Amen to that.


Blogger boyinthebands said...

When I work out my "Handmaid's Tale" plan -- to escape from the US in case of violent theocratic takeover -- I tend to think of Ireland, not the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Why? No monarch. I have my Roundhead ancestors to think of. (The irony is Hubby is descended from a famous anti-Puritan CoE vicar.)

Which lead me to ask, how would you want the Lords constituted? Like the Irish Senate? Like the US Senate? Something else?

4:03 pm  
Blogger boyinthebands said...

(Of course, I wouldn't mention the Roundhead thing to the nice people in Dublin. Historic sensitivities and all.)

4:05 pm  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yes, I've thought of going to Ireland too. But not very seriously.

I really have no idea how the Lord's should be constituted, but then again, neither does Parliament, so I don't feel too bad.

5:55 pm  
Blogger Rich said...

Just a small correction: The House of Lords is the upper house of Parliament, not the lower.

Talking about movements to separate church and state in the UK (you may note that the Church of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, and the Church of Wales have already been disestablished) is always an excuse to bring out the name of the movement that opposed it - Antidisestablishmentarianism.

9:50 am  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yes, Rich, always worth dropping that word into conversation if you possibly can!

1:59 pm  
Blogger Matt said...

The issue with a fully democratic second chamber, which I have always agreed with in principle (I am also pretty much a republican in the sense I believe strongly in meritocracy), is that it could become dominated by one party. If that one party also dominates the lower chamber, then there is potentially a loss of the check on power.

We should remember that one of the greatest challenges to some of the encroachments on our civil liberties by the current Labour government's various policies has been the House of Lords.

I'd still like to see some independently appointed experts and elder statepersons in there - individual voices rather than the party machine - but am happy that we now seem at least one step on the way to the end of the current system.

Perhaps the second chamber could have 80% elected members with full voting rights, and 20% appointed experts who have the right to speak there but not vote?

And note to Scott - NZ, Australia and Canada all stick technically have a monarchy - ours!

8:33 pm  
Blogger boyinthebands said...

Technically the Realms have a relation to their Queen apart from the UK and its Queen, though she is all the same person in a personal union.

So properly speaking, your statement is inaccurate. But Republicanize the lot I say.

5:13 am  

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