Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sympathy for the Devil

I never thought that I'd ever say this, but recent events have found me feeling sympathetic towards a Tory. I actually feel slightly dirty just saying that, but despite my cynicism (a quick look at the results of the last election for his constituency show that with the Lib Dems having said that they wouldn't contest the seat, it looks like it'll be no contest) I find myself having a lot of respect for David Davis. I heard his interview on Today and was struck by his sincerity and actual passion on the subject – it says something when we're relying on Tories to defend our civil liberties!

Yes, it's a bit of a publicity stunt, and I can't really see any point to it, but that's part of why I respect the man. There is no political advantage in it for Davis (well, some people are saying that he's angling to take over the leadership of the Conservatives, but I'm not sure about that) so he seems to be doing it entirely out principle, and I've got to respect that.

It now seems that Labour are very much dithering about whether to field a candidate in the by-election, and if they don't, then Kelvin (spit) MacKenzie may be his closest opponent, and that leads me to hope that not only does Davis win, but that he grinds MacKenzie into the dirt... </vitriol>

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Seven Nine Lords a-Blogging

I heard a discussion on Radio 4's The Week in Westminster this week about members of the House of Lords running a group blog. I was in Norn Iron at the time but I took a note of the the participants and looked them up when I got home. This led me to Lords of the Blog and I was quickly sucked in by some of the material I found there.

Unlike a lot of people, I have a lot of respect for the House of Lords. Not only is it a more civilised chamber than the Commons (it always amazes me that MPs whinge that they get no respect from the public after seeing how they behave in the House; they could certainly learn a lesson from the Lords) but it's vital to our democracy. Although it's not perfect, the Lords is a revising chamber and it has successfully revised and redrafted legislation over the years, improving it no end. Yes we've still got bad law, but think how much worse it would have been without the Lords (in one of the comments in that blog, Lord Norton of Louth states that the Lords makes 2000-3000 successful amendments a year to legislation).

The other vital function of the Lords, in my mind, is its expertise. While the Commons has the elected legitimacy, its members are often jacks of all trades, and masters of none (and, increasingly, not even Jacks, since they come straight into Parliament from political jobs without having any "real world" experience), while the Lords contains experts from all walks of life, from art and science to business and politics. These are exactly the kinds of people who should be in a revising chamber – experts in the fields, who will know when an idea has merit and when it is simply fanciful.

Yes, I'm painting an idealistic picture here, and no doubt the second chamber could be improved, but if we ever do move to a fully elected 'senate' for our second chamber, the term of office must be a long one – another benefit of the Lords is that they are more resistant to lobbying, since there is no electorate to have to please and no chance of being deselected if they vote against the party line.

All in all, I think our second chamber does a damn fine job, and if it's going to be changed, we really need to think very carefully about how it's done. It keeps the government in check, it's full of expertise, it's more civilised and its members are more independent than the Commons. I'll vote for that.

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