I feel somewhat vindicated by their Lordships’ having passed an amendment to the Article 50 Bill which would guarantee the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK regardless of what other EU nations decide about the residency status of UK ‘ex-pats’. To the great annoyance of some of my more left-wing comrades, I have always expressed severe reservations about their demands that the House of Lords should be abolished forthwith. Indeed, it has long been my contention that we should be extremely wary of any plan to do away with the upper chamber. And for very good reasons, which have just been demonstrated.
There are few enough checks and balances in the British political system. For all the glaring and unarguable flaws of an assembly which epitomises the unelected power, unearned privilege and unaccountable patronage of the British state, the House of Lords does occasionally have its uses. For all the chamber may be populated, for the most part, by ermine-clad spongers, troughing, farting and snoring their way to a daily per-sponge stipend that would feed an entire ‘Benefit Street’ for a week, it may be better than any alternative that we’re likely to be offered.
It is illuminating that the Lords themselves have a term for the exceptions to the rule of leeches wrapped in the skins of dead stoats, emitting the odd animal bray or grunt as they sleep off the taxpayers’ unoffered largesse lest some flunky in a Liberace costume panic and have at them with a gold-plated defibrillator. They call these exceptions ‘Working Peers’. Far be it from me to suggest that this is to distinguish them from the more common ‘Parasitical Peers’. You must draw your own conclusions.
Suffice it to say that, every once in a while, the normally detestable House of Lords redeems itself in some meaningful measure by serving as a corrective to one or other of the more vaunting idiocies or iniquities of an executive which, being drunk on power, rather than (or perhaps as well as) subsidised port and brandy, is even more of an affront to our democracy than the largest unelected legislature outside totalitarian China.
Don’t get me wrong! I am all for getting rid of the House of Lords. I recognise that, here in Scotland, it will soon cease to be our concern. But, so long as we remain part of the UK, I have to take an interest in the purposefully arcane workings of the British state’s archaic institutions. And, disgusted as I am by the concept of hereditary privilege and the corruption of political patronage, I fear for what might happen if this final, flimsy constraint on executive power were to be abolished, only to be replaced by something designed by those who have designs on unconstrained executive power.
Be careful what you wish for is ever a useful adage.
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