Society

House of Lords reform – Continued

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By James Clark Ross

Yesterday saw far too much bickering and not enough substance in the House of Commons. Following on from the news that the Liberal Democrats would chase up an old promise for once and pursue legislating a House of Lords reformation (30/06/2012: bishops-set-to-maintain-anti-democratic-seats), the idea was put to the Members of Parliament. Not all of the coalition members succumbed to the pressure of the whips and rebelled accordingly, but overall there was a majority behind the move. Furthermore, despite calls from many politicians (mainly Labour; http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/07/bishops-come-under-fire-but-lords-reform-now-looks-a-distant-prospect) – and to my great dismay – still no amendment has been made to the plans to maintain appointed Bishops.

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, urged his colleagues to vote against the timing of the law in favour of a more scheduled, unhurried ruling. This has presented further issues in legislating the reformation and is likely to delay talks until later on in the year, especially as the rebels of the whip (whom unsurprisingly comprise mostly of Conservatives) have made it clear that they won’t back the move altogether.

I can’t see why Labour wouldn’t want this move quickly, since it embodies a more representative and democratic system that the party, the ballot box and the rest of the public have advocated. I can’t help but see it as point scoring.

Meanwhile, rebel members of the Con-Dems have been warned of what can only be described as sinister “serious consequences” if they didn’t change their minds. A significant part of the coalition agreement was to chase this legislation and was seen to seal the deal in forming a government. What Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) had in mind was an 80% elected House of Lords, a massive reduction in members and a whole host of democratic pleas. From the looks of it, however, we can expect a massively watered down version of the bill as Cameron and his party still remain discontent. He wants to “draw a line” under it now and continue to fail society on other issues.

The qualms I initially sense are that this will be forgotten; the public’s vested interest will wane and this ever-so modest revolution will perish. The problem is more deeply rooted than that though. Again the Liberal Democrats plans have been undermined by their partners and again the barriers preventing forward-thinking secularism haven’t been tackled.

Ultimately, the whole aim of the reform was to make politics more accountable in having an elected house. I find it hard to share any aspect of the stance many of the rebelling politicians are taking on this issue. We want the people that discuss our society’s issues to represent our views; is that too much to ask? Moreover, why are we still aiming to reserve places for one religious establishment? The Church of England now looks set to resist female bishops and simultaneously keep powerful parliamentary seats to voice our opinions – that includes all you females. (Comically the Queen is the head of CoE.)

It’s a point worth making that the Bishops solely represent the Church of England whether their interpretation of scripture is socially correct or not. There are many religions to say the least, along with the endless amount of different viewpoints in this country. This isn’t discrimination against non-religious people; it’s muffling society’s collective voice. Is this just some facade, where all that lies inside are naive, yellow-bellied politicians too scared to be playing catch-up with the rest of the world by disestablishing religion from state? Only Iran continues to act in the same vein. That’s one country. But to what avail? The legislation needs to be amended and put through for the good of our country.

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