We illegally bomb 'democracy' into foreign lands that happen to possess resource or geopolitical value. We all play a role in these 'liberty' crusades. We are all culpable proselytizers of democracy at any price.
Yet the dis-united Kingdom remains a feudal land. A picturesque pretence of democracy. The people have no say in who their ruling Lords are. This House of Lords wields tangible, very real influence over laws and governance. Above the unelected Lords is the Monarchy, unelected by definition, their control less identifiable, more insidious. But do not be fooled by the cooing whispers that the Monarch's power is superficial.
In impoverished council estates the disenfranchised poor queue at ramshackle temporary food banks in spiralling number, whilst wealthy Lords are offered £300 every time they sit wrapped in their Ede & Ravenscroft gaudy robes, like bloated greedy supermen. We breathe ragged breaths within a dysfunctional shell of a democracy, just as we survive in a broken and divided collection of countries under the Butcher's Apron.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is calling in strident tones for the abolition of the House of Lords, primarily due to the overtly corrupt nature of former Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation honours list. The PM's list is a swansong penned to elite power privilege, where those with extravagant finance who have filled the coffers for Conservative battles are 'raised' to the House of Lords, invidiously nestling into positions where even more political and social power flows to them. This is how power consolidates itself into sustainable, irremovable institutional tumours. It is how a person's retention of governing ownership over their life erodes, how national political apathy sets in to rot. It is how democracy dies.
Noun: A man of high rank in a feudal society or in one that retains feudal forms and institutions.
Exclamation: used in exclamations expressing surprise or worry. Worry with reason.
Verb: act in a superior and domineering manner towards. Yes, yes they do.
Archaic verb: confer the title of Lord upon. It is certainly archaic.
I welcome the SNP's recent war cry demanding the destruction of the Lords. Although why it has not come sooner from other parties, and with more force, does beg questioning. Perhaps it is partly because the SNP are newcomers to fusty Westminster. The corrupt furniture and cobwebbed unfairness of it elicits outcry and horror. Other parties are perhaps inured and nose blind to the philosophical stench of the system. That so many people in the land are accepting of the House of Lords I find dismaying. The House of Lords is a glaringly outdated relic of a colonial and undemocratic past, a construction that should itch and rub any modern thinking person. Why have we tolerated it for so long?
Are the Lords an essential safety check, and counter balance to the House of Commons?
No. These are sleepy arguments exhaled from enervated thought. A safety check on the House of Commons is, almost certainly a good thing. It has blocked, for example, a government from enacting a motion to both ease off reporting on child poverty levels as well as adjusting the statistical definition of what it means be a child in dire poverty (doing so would provide more positive and happy looking charts on how the country is improving). A government who failed to secure a democratic majority vote and who, without consulting their voters, teamed up with a disgraced minority party it might be added. Highlighting that the Commons government can be one of questionable democratic mandate.
An institutional counter weight to ruthless Commons government excess is valuable.
However, for this counter weight to be an unelected House of Lords in fur trim robes and finery is not only a grotesque failure of democracy: it is a failure of the imagination. Our imagination. It is us, the people, who own government. We who own our institutions of power and governance. So for pity's sake let us be the architects of something better than the House of Lords. We do have the collective power to organise, criticise, demand and shape such change. We do not need to be governed by effete funders barely known or scrutinised by the public. An institutional counter to the Commons could be anything we chose. If we are to continue bombing civilians in faraway countries on the pretext of bringing democracy and freedom then we damn well need that second institution to be elected, transparent and publicly accountable, if we are not to wither from hypocrisy.
But beyond that... we have a pen, a blank sheet of hopeful opportunity, talented young minds, and a cobbled collection of countries that can positively change. Heal. This scribble is not a blueprint. It is a call.
Adrienne Macartney runs the public engagement project 'Science Hooker', and is a final year PhD student at the University of Glasgow where she studies the loss of the early atmosphere of Mars, and what lessons this loss might provide for tackling climate change.
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