Thursday 17 December 2015

Living in the past

There seems no logical reason why a monarch whose only role in the government of the country is to do as she is told by ministers should be privy to the confidential documents and papers otherwise seen only by ministers.  And there’s even less reason for her children or grandchildren to have access to the same material.  The monarch doesn’t even need to know what is in the acts which she signs into existence, let alone the detail of the discussions which led to them.
Similarly, there is no logical reason why a mixed bunch of appointees, hereditary aristocrats, and senior clerics from one particular sect of one particular religious tendency should have any formal input into the laws which govern our behaviour.  Yet this, like the access of the monarch and her offspring to confidential material, is part of the fabric of the constitution of the UK.
The only reason why either practice survives is unwillingness on the part of successive governments to depart from history and tradition.  In all other aspects of activity, governments – of both parties – repeat the mantra that we must reform to be more ‘efficient’.  Removal of outdated practices is seen as inherently ‘good’ in almost every field – except when it comes to dealing with the remaining privileges of inheritance and rank.
If we were designing a constitutional structure from scratch, it’s hard to believe that many would even suggest either a hereditary head of state or the curiosity which is the House of Lords, let alone assign any powers or rights to either of them.  It’s even harder to believe that such suggestions would be taken seriously.
Tinkering on the fringes by restricting the powers of the Lords ever to disagree with the Commons, or debating which documents the monarch should or should not see, is missing the point.  I wouldn’t go as far as the French revolutionaries’ approach of “off with the heads”, but peaceful democratic abolition of both institutions is long overdue.

1 comment:

Ivor Nadir said...

Nice succinct post John, agree with every word. Except I'm tempted by “off with their heads”...