Every now and then something happens to lift the lid on the completely crazy way that Great Britain is run – last night was one of those times.The scenario is this – a Conservative government tried to remove a significant proportion of support to the lowest paid workers on the ground of saving £4 billion. They chose to do it in such a way as to ensure the there was little scrutiny of the proposal in the House of Commons. They knew that there was little real opposition in the House of Commons and so this was seen as a fairly routine way of getting the government’s business done. All well and good – then the roof collapsed on this cosy arrangement and with it exposed the underbelly of some of the most undemocratic proceeding anywhere in the world.
Forget the people’s congress of North Korea I give you the House of Lords, an unelected body of place men and women with some Church of England bishops thrown in to add a little colour. I believe there might still be the odd hereditary peer stumbling around the corridors but most of his colleagues have been removed by reforms to make the House of Lords more ‘representative’ and the numbers manageable. Of course this has meant that the numbers have swollen since the reforms.
Into this huge mix of nonsense we must now add the wonders of an unwritten constitution which relies on precedent rather than any thought through process to enable this mess to work. The problem with precedent of course is that they only last until a new one is set and even then there is a whole minefield of arguments over which precedent to follow. Now at this point it is well worth acknowledging that written constitutions are little better – a good exemplar of this are the knotts the Supreme Court of the United States of America ties itself into when trying to interpret an 18th century document and its numerous amendments for the 21st Century. At least that process has the advantages of being open – the British far less so.
So the House of Lords last night the House of Lord voted down the Statutory Instrument which would have implemented the cuts and suddenly everyone is running around as if the world as we know as ended. The papers are full of dire warnings of how could a significant block of Lib Dem Peers block a Conservative proposal when the Lib Dems were almost wiped out at the polls. Forgetting of course that if Britain had anything like a fair voting system the Lib Dems would have far more MPs given their proportion of the vote. In fact the Conservative Government only managed around 37% of the vote yet got a majority – one more wonderful example of the nonsense of the way we are run.
So we are now in the wonderful looking glass world whereby the elected government with dubious legitimacy is being blocked by an elected body whose legitimacy is very very dubious and this is seen as a victory for democracy. The only good thing to come out of this whole nonsense is that some of the poorest workers in the country won’t have a real cut to the money they need to live which I guess is actually a real positive. Just a shame that the way we go about these things is nonsense. So much for the mother of all parliaments.