Thursday, November 16, 2006

Queens Speech

Like much of the population I am extremely cynical and almost apathetic about the contents of yesterday's Queen's Speech. The only thing that really bothers me right now are the proposals for police to be able to evict troublesome tenants almost immediately, and after that they become 'intentionally homeless'(see link). Anti social neighbours are indeed a problem for some people, but what does turfing them out onto the street do to address the issues behind their behaviour?

But what always springs to my mind is the uselessness of the monarchy. It is a farce as we all know these policies are not the invention of the monarch but of the government.

Yet those who are in favour of a Republic must think of viable alternatives. We do not want a US- style presidential system in which the prime minister has unlimited powers (he already has too much as it stands). It would also be pretty useless and a waste of resources having any Head of State that is a mere figurehead, as with some countries. A modern republic would need a whole new constitution. It would need an elected second chamber and decentralisation of political power, voting reform and a proper chance for citizens to participate in an active democracy. Not the sham we have now.


Political Umpire said...

I certainly agree that the second chamber should be reformed, but I don't think it should be elected, certainly not wholly elected.

First you need to decide what a second chamber is for. Is it just to be a second version of the commons? If so, I don't really see the point.

Traditionally the HL has supposed to be a revising chamber (geared towards holding the executive to its election promises, and scrutinising legislation from a technical perspective), and a forum for expert public debate.

If the Lords was elected, it would immediately vie for supremacy with the Commons, and you'd end up with the type of impass that other countries such as Australia during the Whitlam affair encountered.

The genius of the British Constitution after the Parliament Acts (but before the vandal Blair got hold of it) was that the elected Commons always had the final say, as it should in a democracy. The Commons alone could claim democratic legitimacy and so rightly prevailed.

All that said, I don't support the hereditary principle. I think the solution is to have at least half of the seats in the Lords _ex officio_, in other words held as of right by various of the great and the good. I am referring to the likes of Vice Chancellors of Universities, heads of industry and trade unions, retired judges, senior ranks in the armed forces, heads of professional bodies like the General Medical and Dental Councils, Law Society, Architects etc.

Few, if any, such people would seek such positions in the hope of also getting a seat in the Lords. They would thus be devoid of the career–building self interest that blights professional politicians, and would not be beholden to any party whips. They would also bring expertise from a broad range of public life, which would assist in one of the upper house's secondary functions – a forum for expert public debate.

The remainder could be appointed, as now. A brake on the ability of the government to shove through cronies could be a requirement for 75% of the Commons to agree with any particular apppointment.

As for changing the voting system, I am from a country with proportional representation. All I will say is - be careful what you wish for.

Congrats on an interesting blog

Liz said...

Thanks for your comment, you raised some interesting points. Perhaps to have the second chamber half elected and half based on position in organisations would be a good idea.

Political Umpire said...

It's one worth considering although in that case I fear that the elected Lords would ape the behaviour of the Commons and try and exclude or bully the ex officio Lords by whining about being elected.

Hope you enjoy your visit to my home country. I'm not a Wellingtonian (from Auckland, watch the groan from the provincials as you say that, tee hee) but did enjoy the few months I spent there. Get to the sounds (sure you will) and the wine districts too - Malborough and, if you can face the drive, the Hawkes Bay area as well. Oriental Bay is nice in summer. While you're about it see if the locals like proportional representation, I am not convinced it's been a success.

Liz said...

Hi again,

Went to the Oriental bay the day before yesterday and had a paddle, it was a hot day. I'm glad to be escaping the British winter.

My partner told me about the wine districts and we intend to visit them, along with napier and Hawkes Bay.

PR - my boyfriend's family seem to like the idea but then they are Greens so they maybe would say that. To get an all round opinion I'd have to ask more people about it.

Did you hear about the resignation of Brash yesterday? I'd be curious to hear what you make of that whole affair....

Political Umpire said...

Glad someone is enjoying the British winter - namely someone not in Britain!

I haven't followed Brash's resignation. I happen to know something about him, from people who used to work with him. The consensus is that Brash doesn't have an original thought in his head, he tends to parrot whatever was said by the last person he spoke to. He himself is a good argument against PR. Never accepted by any constitutency, he only got the job by being on the party list. The MMP system in NZ means that anyone in favour with the party leadership will never be evicted from Parliament, as they get put on the top of the list.

They also don't do any constituency work, another down side of PR.

Ask boyfriend's rellies about how Winston Peters held the whip hand after the first hung parliament (I think it was the last election before PR, but it was a scenario that was virtually guaranteed under PR whereas it happened once in a blue moon under FPP). Peters was an ex-National MP. He campaigned vigorously against the incumbent Nat. government, promising he'd bring them down. After the election, with him third by a long way but holding the balance of power, six weeks or so of negotiations in smoke-filled room ensued, at the end of which Peters cheerfully announced he'd gone into coalition with ... the nationals! Turned out they'd buttered him up with more personal concessions than the others - so much for policies ...

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