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Thursday, February 06, 2003
Our second Chamber

We seem not to have much progress in the reform of our second chamber. However, the reality is possibly different.

When I was in Australia, just over three years ago, that country was in the throes of a debate on The Monarchy - whether or not to have HM the Q as Head of State. The process was fascinating except that the situation was confused/sabotaged by royalists. They persuaded the majority of the electorate to stick with the status quo for fear of something worse. Without that confusion, a republican vote would have been a certainty.

To some extent, this sort of thing has happened here: there is no agreement on an alternative to The House of Lords so no decision has been reached. There is one big plus: no-one could think of anything worse than a chamber of hereditary peers so the old buggers have had their powers greatly curtailed. The problem has come with the choice of a replacement second chamber.

With just an emasculated rump of The Lords still in place, Mr Dictator Blair's legislative programme has very little to constrain it. Meanwhile, the Hamlet tendency in the Commons and Junket Jack, Minister for the Long Grass, don't seem to be getting anywhere.

But we have progress of a sort. As the Australians realised, you cannot dump such a complicated and archaic system and devise something to rerplace it immediately. You need time and debate and, perhaps, do it in phases, even modifying it in the light of experience. Better luck next time, cobbers.

It is extremely important to have a second, revising chamber. It is established beyond all doubt now that that chamber should not be peopled by descendants of cronies of past monarchs. That was the worst of all worlds.

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