The Red Benches
As a Liberal Democrat, I’m supposed to be against the House of Lords in its current form. As a matter of principle. And I should be most especially against bishops in the House of Lords.
At one level, I am. I don’t think that the sort of patronage exercised in sending people to the Lords is healthy for a democracy. I don’t think the way that the parties appear to be forever multiplying the number of peers to try to gain advantage is sensible or sustainable.
But, at another level, I’m not so sure. As I’ve discussed on my blog more than once, most recently today, members of the House of Lords have made some telling interventions in policy debates. For every tale of expenses abuse by an occupant of the red benches, for every evident conflict of interest that comes to light, and for every episode of demonstrable disconnection from reality as it imposes itself on most of us, there is, in contrast, a display of wisdom, compassion and insight into the problems facing our country and its citizens that outshines anything on offer in the Commons.
Turning the Lords into a replica of the Commons, as it currently operates, would make our democratic system more dumb and dysfunctional than it already is.
I’m not sure quite how to get around that.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” (Isaac Asimov, 1980)
On the drivers of UK housing policy
At the Evening Standard today @amolrajan provides a pithy summary:
The only reasonable conclusion is that Britain’s housing policy is fuelled by hypocrisy, a platform for deceit, a vehicle for cynicism, a declaration of war by the old and the rich on the young and the poor, and it is about to get worse, not better.
Benefit cuts and disabled people - some evidence
Earlier this week, on the UN Day of Disabled People, Habinteg published a report examining the impact of the Coalition’s benefit cuts on their tenants. There was a particular concern to investigate whether policy is undermining the possibility of independent living.
This evidence suggests that disabled people are being hit hardest by the cumulative impact of welfare reform.
You can read the report here.
Pointless machismo from the Lib Dems?
In today’s Observer Andrew Rawnsley has an interesting piece about privatisation, in the wake of the Royal Mail sell off.
He notes that you can explain the Tories’ enthusiasm for the sell off as a bid to out-Thatcher Thatcher. But that clearly doesn’t carry over to the Liberal Democrats.
He then writes the following:
The enthusiasm of Vince Cable and the Lib Dems is harder to fathom. This will seem counterintuitive to anyone who is not a Lib Dem minister, but for them this was also a political virility test. They believe that they burnish their credentials as a party of government by doing things that most of the public say they hate.
If that is anywhere near the vicinity of the truth then that is one of the most dispiriting things I’ve read today.
And given that the political arm of the media at the moment is largely filled with news designed to drain you of any hope that enlightenment might one day return to politics, that is surely saying something.
Further observations on evidence and quack policy
Nothing new under the sun …
I came across this again today:
Nothing is esteemed except money, nothing accounted except a banking account. Quality, education, civic distinction, public virtue, are valued less and less. We have in London an important section of people who go about preaching the gospel of Mammon advocating the 10 per cent commandments - who raise each day the inspiring prayer “Give cash in our time, O Lord”.
This is part of a political speech associated with the argument that people fear the Independent Labour Party when what they should really be fearing is the Independent Capitalist Party.
Earlier I was reading today’s speech by Nick Clegg and thinking about what I might blog in response. This evening I re-encountered the following quote, which seems apposite, not to Clegg particularly, but to the whole business of political blogging in general. It’s from the Acknowledgements (p.vi) in Constructing the political spectacle by Murray Edelman (1988):
As a student of political language and symbolism, I am indebted in a different way to the countless public officials and representatives of political causes who spend their time giving me more data than I want, much of it disturbing or outrageous.