Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Lords


Of course I love the hereditary peerage (I love Iolanthe too) and my first job was in the House of Lords. I remember the Lords when the 4th Lord Russell with his beard half way down his torso would spend the nights asleep on the red leather benches behind the throne. I remember too the previous Lord Mowbray with his piratical eye-patch:

Lord (Noel) Annan once recalled an occasion when a fellow peer quoted the famous lament of Sir Ranulph Crewe over the medieval nobility: "Where is Bohun, where's Mowbray, where's Mortimer? Nay, which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality" — whereupon a voice piped up from the Conservative benches saying: "Mowbray is here!" "There, indeed," recalled Annan, "was the premier baron of England, fighting fit and at his place in that hour."

But sometimes you really do have to move with the times (imagine an upper house in which sat as of right the great grandsons of John Prescott and Margaret Beckett). Even in 1910 the Tories wanted an elected second chamber - my solution is an Upper House elected for 15 year non renewable terms one tranche each year.

Or better by members of the public for 1 year terms, like jury service. But unlike jury service it would have to be voluntary. And only people over 30 with no criminal record, who could read and write English well.

The bishops? There is a conundrum to which I have no answer. The Catholic Church now believes in the separation of church and state which I have always thought utterly sad. I want the Anglican bishops to stay and do not want the Catholic bishops to become part of the (in the modern sense of the word) establishment by sitting there (they would not be allowed to by the Pope anyway). But Hindu and Sikh leaders in the Upper House?

This is the end of an old song.

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