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Is The UK Government The Enemy of Democracy?

Posted on 9th January 2017

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After I read this BBC news report this morning, I think the question "Is The UK Government The Enemy of Democracy?" is a reasonable one, to which the British voters need the answer.

Non-Brits may not be aware of how the House of Lords works. In some ways, it is like the US Senate, but Lords are not elected; they are instead appointed by government. Each government appoints a few, so most of the Lords were appointed by previous governments. Appointments are for life (there are still a few hereditary peers, who mostly do not vote, but no new hereditary peers are created nowadays). There has long been talk of abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected body, in the same way that there is talk of abolishing the monarchy, but there are no real plans to do it, and the public seems to have mixed feelings on the issue.

The House of Lords cannot completely block legislation (neither can the Queen); they can either pass bills or send bills back to the House of Commons with amendments, and that they can only do a limited number of times (three, I believe).

Now, however, the government has said that the House of Lords will face an "overwhelming" public call to be abolished if it opposes the bill to trigger Article 50 (to begin the process of Brexit - leaving the EU).

Hold on a minute! There are only two choices here:

  1. Either the House of Lords performs some valid and useful role in the British democratic process.
    In that case, how dare the UK government interfere in the workings of democracy. Let the Lords get on with their job.
  2. Or the House of Lords performs no useful democratic function.
    In that case, the process of abolishing the House of Lords should have already started, and should be judged by the British people on its merits.

It doesn't even matter which of the above views is right. The idea that abolition can be wielded as a punishment for "bad behaviour" fits neither of the above scenarios, and is nothing more than corrupt and undemocratic blackmail on the part of Theresa May's government.