“I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the component parts of the English constitution, we shall find them to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new Republican materials.
“First.—The remains of the Monarchical tyranny in the person of the King.
“Secondly.—The remains of Aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the Peers.”
Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, rallied support for the independence of the Britain’s American colonies, partially on the basis of two antediluvian, blue-blooded despotisms. In the colonies, the King, as the Declaration of Independence concurrently noted, “has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” A hereditary senate continued to govern America from across the second largest body of water on the planet.
Sixty-eight years earlier, Queen Anne had welcomed the end of the monarchical rule. Her countrymen above Hadrian’s Wall were to form a militia; she feared they would turn against the English. But where were the Americans to rebel from across the Atlantic? For them, the denial of Royal Assent was to continue. In the late eighteenth century, Britain’s colonies continued to be a proletariat’s proletariat, only in their imperial state to create a playground to financially stimulate Britain.
Geographically, as Paine noted, the tractor was being governed by the plow; America consumed Britain’s goods and was taxed, albeit without representation. In a desperate political situation, and with one of America’s feet dangling from the edge of a colonial plateau of colonization, Frederick North offered to repeal all of the colony’s unfavorable acts. It was too late.
Following the formation of the US, the country’s Articles of Confederation compassionately welcomed British Quebec to join the new Union. In Canada, the British took a a page from the lessons of the American revolution and played a kinder game. The privately owned East India Company did Britain’s bidding in India until 1858, in the wake of the Indian Mutiny.
One hundred years later, symptoms of legislative aristocracy began to vanish as life peers took seats in the House of Lords. Retired politicians, scientists, social workers, diplomats, and businessmen enjoyed legislative seats to serve King and Country. Eventually, the number of hereditary peers began to equal the appointed members in the House, and in 1997 (coinciding with the handover Britain’s last great colonial asset, Hong Kong), the number of sitting blue-bloods was nearly decimated through legislation.
Any sentient observer of western political affairs would note the difficulties of passing legislation in Washington, in contrast to the relative ease with which David Cameron reorganized the NHS. If Mr. Cameron should want Britain to fund UNICEF, he may contribute with ease, not being mandated to worry about three upcoming election cycles in two separate assemblies. The US Senate may, and exponentially does, kill legislation through the filibuster, while the Lords only stall bills and propose amendments. In short, while a myriad of outside groups seek consulting from members of the House of Lords, the chamber contributes to British politics, often free of charge, without being an obstructionist organization.
Mr. N. W. P. Clegg, the coalition government’s deputy prime minister, has been insistent that ‘true’ or ‘twenty-first century’ democracy remains unattainable until the Lords metamorphosis into a wholly elected chamber.
Mr. Clegg believes that democracy is not achieving the electorate’s wishes, but rather competing with other nations to achieve the same quality of gridlock (known by Mr. Clegg as ‘democracy’) that faces their national legislatures.
Mr. Clegg prefers a group of professional politicians who invariably speak with the intent to be reëlected, when faced with the alternative of establishing a group of the country’s most accomplished private servants who may offer their advice to government.
Does Nick Clegg wish his legacy to be found in the vestiges of a defunct House of Lords, where he ruined one of the last organs of a functioning democratic body? If successful, he should find his name in history books just above Frederick North’s.
Mr. Clegg has taken this issue over all others presiding over his tenure as the country’s No. two statesman. He has betrayed his student supporters by supporting the Conservatives to treble tuition fees. He has turn his back on ninety-one Liberal Democrat friends, and two hundred eighteen Conservative colleagues in the Lords. He has undone virtually every promise in his party’s manifesto, except occasionally pseudo-threatening to block bills.
The British constitution is working. There is no need, Mr. Clegg, to break it.
All the voters who will make sure reduce your LibDems to the laughingstock of politics in three years’ time.
To see a list of Members of the House of Lords, ninety-seven per cent of whom have made a contribution to society greater than that of Nick Clegg, please do click here.