Hello! Here in Smolensk butcher shop, we very worry about Lords reform.
Good old sexy Russian origins Nicky Clegg, defining politician of age, has take leave of absence from his mind and in moment of crazy mad propose reform and democratisation of House of Lords. Plenty silly business.
Until this spasm of irrational malice against this Pugin Palace for Pensioners, this Dream of Gerontius, this publicly funded provision for the witless and demented (what they going do, Nicky, the Barons and Ladies and Earls, when you evict them? Set up some Big Society House of Lords themselves? Some these people so incapable they can’t even pour own drinks), until this moment, Nicky show he understand that commitment to extension of democracy associated (perhaps wrongly) with Liberal Party was now old-fashioned delusion nonsense. For he subvert idea of Coalition government, often seen as ultimate expression of democratic will, by change way it work. Instead of take policies from each of Coalition partners manifestos, in proportion to their seats or popular support, Coalition Agreement comprise policies opposite of what in either manifesto or not found in them at all. Brilliant coup d’état! And Nicky lead major party that got poorest reflection of UK diversity in parliament, especially in proportions of women and ethnic minority. And even in push proposal for electoral reform, he not offer British people genuinely proportional system, but one most likely to give him, Nick Clegg, permanent position as holder of balance of power in British politics – and thus permanent seat in Cabinet.
This anti-democratic strain of Liberal thought, contrary to image of party, has deep roots, especially in local politics. We like to think of Lib Dem activists as pot smoking corduroy wearing fruitarian ecologists, adepts of herbalism and homeopathy, who weave their own televisions, and dwell in self-manufactured solar-panelled homesteads (built using wood from sustainable forests or enviro-bricks made from reclaimed treated sun-dried sewage) where they make bearded love on raffia carpeting to the sound of Steeleye Span. We think they committed to their beliefs, to green stuff, to their lifestyle. But in fact, this not how it work in local government at all. Local Lib Dem councillors not get elected on ideological platform, but on populist relationship with voters. So, if there is big local campaign against windfarms, Liberal councillors block them. And they take this localism down to individual level. They promise single elector they do what they want in exchange for vote. Irrespective of what believe themselves. So they say to voter, if you support me in coming election, I will oppose/introduce [delete as appropriate] residential parking in your street, without regard to logic or need.
Liberals in local government define popular will as will of vocal, visible groups. Their mandate is not to pursue coherent programme but populist policy tapestry woven from promises made to individuals they happen to meet in campaign. It is obvious how this local behaviour lead to anti-democratic strain of Cleggist liberalism at national government level. It is short step from doing what voter likes, however stupid, to doing what voter hates, however stupid. Neither is essence of true democracy.
And good thing! Democracy is failed experiment we long-since abandon in Russia.
So why is Clegg want votes for House of Lords? I suppose it could be charade again. After all, his candidates for such election be drawn from existing Liberal Lords and also from Lib Dem councillors. They will match unrepresentative quality of liberals in Commons. Peers and councillors mostly white, with average age of 106. And I suppose they will be just as easy to co-opt to Coalition will – ie will of Prime Minister – as Shirley Williams prove over NHS.
But it all be very boring! Imagine: existing Lords now having to run – or rather walk, hobble and stumble – for office. Elections dull enough. But in slow motion!? I suppose you could magnify freak show element in election coverage, like in your reality TV contests, and put suitable elderly presenter in charge. Maybe replace Dimbleby with Tom Jones. He could sing updates on state of parties. “What’s new Ballot Box, whooaa, whoaa, whooaaa, whooa whoa”, “Now, we’ll touch, the Green, Green Chance of Voootes”, “Why, why, why Electors, my, my, my Deposit!” But even then he have to do live interview links with candidate. He ask them what they think of low turnout, and they reply, “Well, I er, I er, think it’s time for that pretty nurse to bring my Horlicks.”
Anyway there obvious better way to achieve Clegg aims. If he believe Lords not do job, he could replace with ready-made institution. One that claim real contact with people, believe populism is popular will, but also take difficult and unpopular decisions, say in support of overseas wars or need to break law in pursuit of “public interest”.
Yes. Replace Second Estate with Fourth Estate. The Press.
This put most politically powerful body in UK where it belong – into heart of political decision making.
Only choice that really matter to people is not voting, but choice they make when buy something. And most politically powerful thing they buy is not politician with their ballot paper, but newspaper with their cash.
So Lords replacement, or Senate, should be subject to indirect election. Senators would be owners, reporters and staff of newspapers, in proportional representation reflecting current circulation of tabloids and broadsheets.
Second chamber say what people think – or, as in all areas of politics, what powerful group think they think or think they should think – and act as check on Commons. So, if minister say UK must comply with European Courts on non-deportation of terrorist, The Sun’s Senators would speak for Britain, call for immediate bombing of Strasbourg (and Brussels, Paris and Berlin for good measure) and shout down Guardian faction who drone on about rule of law.
And there be no need for Leveson Enquiry and all its concern about hacking and electronic surveillance. (Though new Senate be vital source of expertise for Coalition proposals to access all UK emails.) No. All that criminal business was about get juicy stories for circulation, money and influence. But as new Senate, press got influence anyway. And they are the story! Tabloid hacks would report own political failings and corruptions. And they pursue their personal errors with even greater vigour than they pursue politicians. Reporters will write amazing pieces calling for “immediate action against corrupt no mark expenses fiddlers like me, who do I think I am, hanging’s too good for me!” They then face prison terms for fraud but secure early release for brilliant exposure of their own corruption and get big pay off from paper for winning Media Society Prize and Paul Foot Award, increasing paper’s circulation and thus boosting its position in Senate.
It is shame he no longer so involved in running of press, because this week James Murdoch show British public his fitness to be Senate Majority leader, especially in his great ability to help ministers like Jeremy Hunt understand their responsibilities. But not worry. There good replacement. And one who also keep Lords tradition of old men exerting great power.
Rupert also give his evidence to Leveson this week.