Posts Tagged ‘House of Lords’

Open Britain on the Negative Aspects of Labour’s Draft Election Manifesto

May 15, 2023

I got this message from the pro-democracy organisation giving their assessment of Labour’s proposed policies as revealed on the Labour list website. They welcome many of them, but criticise Labour for not including proportional representation, repealing the harsh anti-protest laws or defending the political independence of the electoral commission.

‘Dear David,

Yesterday, the LabourList website published a summary of Labour’s draft policy platform – likely to be the foundation of Labour’s 2024 manifesto. There’s a lot in there that we at Open Britain can get excited about, but also some concerning omissions which we simply can’t ignore. 

Let’s start with the positive. We’re finally seeing some fleshed-out policy on key issues, and from what we can see, it does look like Labour is taking public concerns around the environment, economy and security seriously. Of particular interest to us, though, is the section at the bottom entitled “Reform Westminster and Devolve Power.” Here are some of the plans featured there:

  • Reducing the voting age to 16
  • Greater devolution of power to the nations
  • Creation of the Integrity and Ethics Commission, which looks into breaches of ministerial code and misconduct 
  • Banning second jobs for MPs
  • Replacing the House of Lords with an elected chamber 
  • Cracking down on political donations from shell companies

This is all really good, sensible stuff. It shows a distinctive move away from the current government’s anti-democratic legislative agenda and a commitment to restoring public trust in politics, getting younger people involved, and putting the Boris Johnson days long behind us. 

But there is an elephant in the room that we need to talk about. Proportional representation is a potentially disastrous omission. PR is supported en masse by Labour stakeholders across the board because it would fundamentally change Westminster’s toxic, win-at-all-costs dynamic. It would also make more people’s votes count, restoring their confidence in the system. Starmer can’t just wish the calls for PR away. 

And there are some other elephants in the room too. What about revisiting this government’s sly voter identification policy? What about repealing the Policing and Public Order Acts so that dissenters aren’t arbitrarily thrown into cells? What about reinstating the independence of the Electoral Commission? As much as we applaud this positive constitutional agenda, there’s a lot of damage being done right now that it won’t undo.

Imagine this policy package with those additions. That would be the kind of landmark reform that would boost this country’s mood almost overnight, unleashing the democratic power of so many who have gone without a voice for so long.

We don’t want just to imagine it. We want to make it real. We want to make our voices so loud that the Labour leadership has to listen. This agenda shows that they understand the issues we face – but they’re not yet willing to do everything it takes to address them. Let’s keep the pressure on.

Have a great weekend!

The Open Britain Team

Starmer Sacked Scottish Labour Leader at Demands of Donors

April 6, 2023

I went to the online meeting last night on restoring Labour party democracy staged by Arise and the Labour left. I didn’t spend very long there, as sometimes I get too irate at what’s being said – not at the speakers, but at the problems they’re talking about. And the major problem facing democracy in the Labour party is Starmer. He and the NEC are doing everything they can to purge and silence socialists in the party. The most glaring example of this is his deselection of Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose position as party leader Starmer isn’t fit to fill. But there are other cases where he’s deselection sitting MPs and senior party officials over the heads of local constituency parties and the wishes of ordinary Labour party members. And one of the most blatant and toxic examples of this, after Corbyn, is his removal of someone Leonard as head of the Scottish Labour party.

Leonard had aroused right-wing ire by being too left. Even before his removal the NEC and the Labour right had been trying their damnedest to undermine him. The crunch finally came, however, when someone in the House of Lords and a group of Labour party donors told Starmer that they wanted him gone or they would take their money elsewhere. New Labour are corporatists, and when their masters in industry say ‘Jump!’, they say ‘How high?’ And Starmer duly got rid of Leonard and replaced him with someone more pliable.

This does not bode well for the future of the Health Service, as Stalin has among his advisers people from the private healthcare companies. He got touchy when asked about them, and declared that he wouldn’t answer questions on his advisors. Well, the time is long past when we should be questioning politicians on the help they’re getting from the private sector. When Blair slithered into power he was surrounded by a host of lobbyists and advisors from private healthcare companies and even American private prisons, all keen to influence his government. And the result was over a decade of corporatist government that left the people of this country worse off but made Blair and his backers rich. George Monbiot describes this sorry state in his book Captive State, and Bremner and the Long Johns tore into Blair and his corporate cronies in their book You Are Here.

Corporatism is a major problem in America. It’s led to an erosion of trust in politicians, as the majority of Americans believe that once they get elected, their politicos will abandon their election platforms to do what their corporate backers want. A Harvard study declared that because of this, America was no longer a proper democracy but a corporate oligarchy. And some conservatives were also outraged at it. A Republican businessman in California wanted to have a law passed stipulating that politicians gaining from corporate donations should wear the badges of the companies funding them, like racing car drivers and other sportsmen. The major problem in America is a judgement in the 1980s stating that corporate donations are free speech, and thus permissible under the law. Over here it seems to be pretty much a straightforward reaction by industry to the unions funding the Labour party. And just as this corporatism is undermining democracy in the Labour party, it also caused people to leave the Tories. Because the Tory grassroots felt their concerns were being ignored in favour of the corporate big boys and girls.

Starmer is just going to drag us back to the corporate sleaze of the Blair years.

There might be some hope, though. One of the speakers, Nabeela Mowlana, pointed out that Starmer hadn’t killed young people’s enthusiasm for socialism and Corbyn’s and his vision. And there was Blair’s spectacular failure when he tried to stop Red Ken standing as mayor of London. The man Private Eye dubs ‘Leninspart’ stood as an independent, and beat Blair’s candidate.

Starmer is not just destroying democracy in the Labour party, he’s also destroying the wider hopes of the British people, the majority of whom backed Corbyn’s policies for a mixed economy and strong welfare state. We do need to organise and resist him.

38 Degrees Petition Against Liz Truss Granting Honours

April 2, 2023

Here’s another one from the internet democracy organisation.

‘Dear David,

It’s official. Despite being Prime Minister for a grand total of 44 days – 44 days that did huge damage to our economy and left people up and down the country struggling – Liz Truss has submitted an honours list. [1]

And reports suggest it includes a number of her closest friends, supporters and Conservative party donors who could soon be awarded a place in the House of Lords for life. [2]

Rishi Sunak now has to decide whether or not to approve this list of names, so we need to show him just how unpopular this would be with the public. You and over 180,000 of us have signed the petition, now can you go further and take a short survey on how you feel about the thought of Liz Truss getting an honours list? [3] We’ll compile it into a report and send your answers over to Rishi Sunak while he weighs up his decision.

David, if you believe a Prime Minister forced to resign after just a few weeks should not be allowed to reward their friends with jobs for life in the Lords, can you answer a few short questions for us today? Here’s the first one to get you started.
Do you think Rishi Sunak should block Liz Truss’s honours list?

YES

NO

DON’T KNOW

Thanks for being involved,

David, Megan, Robin and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] The Guardian: Liz Truss requests peerages for some of her closest Tory supporters
Guardian: Revealed: the £30bn cost of Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget
[2] See note 1
[3] 38 Degrees: Liz Truss should go without an honours list or any other perks!

I’ve signed it, because Truss’ tenure of 10 Downing Street was short and incompetent, causing massive damage to the economy and threatening people’s livelihoods. She should not be allowed to reward her cronies, who guided and assister her on these disastrous and ruinous policies.

If you do say ‘yes’, the petition then asks if you would be willing to appear on news programmes or talk to the press or post a video to social media expressing your views, as well as asking for your phone number so they can get back to you. I leave this to your discretion.

Oswald Mosley’s Thoughts On an Industrial Franchise

March 18, 2023

One of Mosley’s policies for the British Union of Fascists was to turn the House of Lords into an industrial chamber. This would be like Fascist Italy’s Chamber of Fasces and Corporations in which representatives of management and the trade unions for particular industries would sit to manage the economy. It’s an interesting idea, and the Germans had experimented with a similar chamber in 1919. When Mosley was attempting his political return after the War, he was still considering having people elected according to industry rather than geographical location, and included his thoughts on it in his book Mosley-Right or Wrong (London: Lion Books 1961):

‘Question 152: Do you advocate an occupational franchise?

Answer: I think it is the best method, but it is not essential to our system. So long as government has sufficient power of action in its defined sphere to carry out the mandate of the electors during its period of office, the essential is there. Government elected by the people will be able to do what the people want done, and they can sack it by their votes at the next election if it does not do the job to their satisfaction.

But as parliament still plays a very important part in our systems, it is preferable that it should be elected in a modern instead of an obsolete way. I mean by this that in early days of the geographical franchise, when the main industry was agriculture, men exercised the very limited franchise of those days in the area where they both lived and worked. Residential and industrial interests were really identical. But now a man’s occupation may be completely separated from his residence. Certainly his interests in these two spheres are no longer identical, and most men and women are more interested in their occupation than where they happen to live.

In their occupation they are well informed concerning its problems and the people engaged in it. They are more likely to select the best people to represent them.

Further, the resulting parliament will be a serious one, more likely to approach problems in the spirit of the search for truth, rather than the frivolous mood of party warfare. That is why I prefer and occupational franchise, but it is not essential to the success of our system. People may prefer not immediately to change so many of the traditional methods.’ (p. 151).

I’d very much like working people and their industries to be represented in parliament, especially as it is now dominated by representatives of industry. When Cameron was in power 77 % of MPs were company directors and senior executives. But the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations didn’t actually do anything except cheer Mussolini and rubber stamp his polices.

As well as laying out Mosley’s policies for post-War Britain and Europe, much of the book is an attempt to justify his conduct before the War as head of the BUF. He attempts to present himself as a democratic politician and definitely not a raging anti-Semite. The BUF wasn’t responsible for violence, and in power Mosley will respect all the traditional liberties like free elections and Habeas Corpus. He also attempts to redefine various Fascist doctrines. For example, he declares that the leadership principle just means that the person in charge of a particular policy, task or ministry should be held absolutely personally responsible for it, and that the buck shouldn’t be passed among members of various committees. It’s a good attitude, especially as we’ve seen officials responsible for catastrophic failures try to shrug off their responsibility for it. But that’s not what the leadership principle means. It looks like a version of Hitler’s Fuehrerprinzep, or ‘leader principle’. Simply put, this meant that the head of an organisation was its leader, and his staff or employees had an absolute duty to obey him, such as the relationship between a factory manager and his workers.

As for Mosley respecting democracy, I don’t believe a word of it.

Mosley is completely unrepentant of the actions and policies of the BUF. He considered them justified at the time, and says so in his book. If Mosley had seized power, Britain would have become another wretched Fascist dictatorship in which the individual would have no rights, political parties and genuine working class trade unions would be smashed and illegal. Opposition politicians would be attacked and incarcerated and Jewish Brits would either be expelled or exterminated. I’ve no doubt that he would have collaborated with Hitler in the Holocaust. After Hitler became the international star of Fascism, eclipsing Mussolini, Mosley changed the name of his gang of thugs to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists. His Fascist Quarterly, set up as a rival to Gollancz’s Left Book Club, contained pieces by leading Nazis as well as other Fascists.

While I like the idea of an industrial parliament, Fascism itself is a murderous tyranny which has to be fought everywhere.

Open Britain on the Tory Attack on Democracy

January 17, 2023

I got this email from the pro-democracy organisation, Open Britain, on the Tories’ continued campaign against democracy in our fair country. It runs

Dear David,

Over the last four years, we have witnessed a rapid reduction in the fairness and inclusivity of UK politics. Rishi Sunak seems determined to continue Boris Johnson’s all-out assault on the rights, institutions, and norms designed to hold the government to account. Academics have a term for this process: “democratic backsliding”.

It’s worth reflecting on recent years through the lens of backsliding to understand where Johnson, Truss, and Sunak are taking us – and how low we’ve already sunk. Researchers at University College London have identified the following critical elements of backsliding:

  1. Breakdown in the norms and standards of political behaviour
  2. Disempowerment of the legislature, the courts, and independent regulators
  3. The reduction of civil liberties and press freedoms; and/or
  4. Harm to the integrity of the electoral system 

On the first element, it’d be nearly impossible to deny that norms and standards in UK politics have become warped beyond recognition, largely thanks to Boris Johnson.

The sheer quantity of Johnson’s absurd lies to the public. The blatant PPE contract corruption. The unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament. The repeated partying throughout the pandemic. Truss’ appointment of Mark Fullbrook as chief of staff. Rishi Sunak’s refusal to sack Suella Braverman amid egregious security violations. Take your pick.

But norms have also been eroded at a deeper level. The government now appears comfortable with breaking international law whenever it suits their needs.

The Internal Markets Bill (2020), the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (2022), the planned Bill of Rights Bill, and the plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda all undermine the UK’s long-held reputation for upholding international agreements on human rights and trade agreements (many of which UK ministers and officials helped to draft). Our government is clearly quite comfortable ignoring its citizens and the international community. It’s safe to say that the first box on that list is checked.

On the second element, backsliding may not be as apparent, but close inspection reveals some seriously concerning changes here too.

The government has attracted robust criticism from the Hansard Society for rushing bills through Parliament and abusing the ‘statutory instruments’ mechanism to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise bills properly.

They have also drawn widespread criticism for taking steps that inevitably undermined the powers and independence of the Electoral Commission. Boris Johnson removed the Commission’s powers to prosecute and attempted to give a (then) Tory-dominated committee control over its operations, and a number of Conservative MPs even called for its abolition.

It’s not just the Electoral Commission either. Former Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell also accused the government of “packing” appointment panels to blatantly place political allies in the House of Lords.

On the third element, we’ve also seen that this government is willing to toss aside fundamental rights and freedoms when they become politically inconvenient. The Policing Act (2022) was a significant affront to our right to protest, including giving police the right to shut down “noisy” protests.

That is now followed by the Public Order Bill (2023), currently in the Lords, which seeks to expand these measures further, giving police the right to pre-emptively crackdown on protests before they happen and keep registers of known activists based on facial recognition data. If that’s not an infringement of civil liberties, then nothing is.

And let’s not forget Dominic Raab’s grubby plans to overturn the Human Rights Act. 

We’ve also recently seen the press and the labour movement under fire from the government. Several journalists were arrested while covering climate protests last November, despite showing valid press IDs. And the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 last year – finally abandoned under public pressure this January – and their continued hostility towards the BBC betray an instinct for threatening vital public news services when they are perceived to be getting in the way.

The Sunak government’s latest priority is to crack down on the right to strike by introducing government-set minimum service standards, once again choosing authoritarian mandates over dialogue or compromise. It’s hard to deny backsliding is also occurring in this area.

On the final element, it has been clear for some time that the integrity of the voting system used for general elections is in jeopardy. The Elections Act (2022) now requires voters to show ID at polling stations, something that creates a barrier to legitimate electors being able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Worse, the government’s choice of valid ID seems to disadvantage people from demographics less likely to vote Conservative. That bill also mandated the use of FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, entrenching a broken system that does not accurately reflect the true will of the electorate. 

It’s clear that the UK is indeed in a phase of democratic backsliding. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue on this path. 

As we move forward in 2023, OB will continue to work, alone and with partners who share our ambitions and values, to ensure UK democracy is striding forwards, not sliding backwards.

The Open Britain team

P.S. We and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

Add to this the secret courts that Dodgy Dave Cameron pushed through, in which you can be tried in secret, without you or your defence knowing the identity of your accusers and evidence withheld from you if the authorities deem it necessary for reasons of national security, and we really are heading towards what some commenters call ‘a democratic deficit’.

I didn’t realise this, but the tribune was the Roman magistrate charged with defending the rights of the plebs and the army. Hence the phrase, ‘a tribune of the people’. The late 18th century French revolutionary communist, Gracchus Babeuf, also recommended a panel of officials charged with making sure local politicos performed their duties. If they didn’t, their constituents had the right of recall and out they would go. I like this idea, and the fact that the Romans knew that you needed officials to protect democratic rights and freedoms shows, in my opinion, just how wise they were. Not wise enough not to be ruled by a bunch of raving psychopaths, but you can’t expect too much from past ages.

Boris claims to be a great admirer of ancient Rome. It’s a pity the tribunes aren’t one of them. Instead from the Tories we get a lot of bluster about democracy and free speech right when they trying to undermine all of it.

Jeremy Bentham’s Radical Political Beliefs

January 13, 2023

Jeremy Bentham was a British 19th century philosopher. He was the inventor of Utilitarianism, a moral philosophy that states that something is good if it creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This, however, fails as it neglects the fact that some things are inherently good or evil even though they may be popular. One of the examples of this would be a case where a mob demands the execution of a wrongly accused man. It is still wrong to execute an innocent person, even if this is massively popular and demanded by the majority of people. Bentham was also interested in prison reform and design. In his view, prisons should be laid out so that the prisoners and their activities were all under surveillance from a central hub, the panopticon. This constant surveillance would, he believed, lead to prisoners acquiring the habit of behaving decently and legally and so reform their characters ready for release back into society. Modern critics consider it a chilling, totalitarian surveillance society in miniature. Another of his ideas is truly bonkers. He believed that people – presumably members of the aristocracy and people accustomed to public service and social prominence – should preserve their ancestors after death through mummification and embalming, and put them on display as ‘autoicons’. The intention behind this bizarre idea is that people, surrounded by their dead relatives and antecedents, would then feel themselves encouraged to emulate their virtues. Bentham had himself preserved, and is on display in a glass case at Oxford University, except for his head, which is a waxwork. His real head is in a case somewhere, and not displayed.

However, the Utilitarians were behind the early 19th century hygiene reforms that cleaned up Britain’s cities by demanding proper sewage and the removal of waste from the streets to improve the inhabitants’ lives and health. And he was also a very much a political radical. He outlined his democratic views in Democracy – A Fragment. He believed that people weren’t naturally virtuous and public spirited, and that they acted primarily in their own interest. This meant that those governing also acted in their own interest, which was to expand their power against everyone else. They could only be kept in line through democracy and all adults possessing the vote. And he meant all adults. The franchise should be extended to include not just all adult men, but also women. He also wanted the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the disestablishment of the Church of England. This was in the 1820s, and it was nearly a century before British women acquired the right to vote. As for the abolition of the monarchy, the Lords and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, Tony Benn was reviled as a Communist for advocating them, plus nuclear disarmament in the 1980s. They’re not policies I support, though the House of Lords needs radical reform as at the moment it has more members than the ruling general assembly of the Chinese Communist Party. But I am impressed with his staunch advocacy of democracy, especially at a time when many would have regarded it almost as seditious because of the excesses of the French Revolution.

And unfortunately he does have a point about the corruption of the governing class. We’ve seen it in the way the Tory administrations of the past eleven years have passed endless laws to benefit their class at the expense of Britain’s working people, and themselves personally. As when one of their number decided to relax the planning laws while angling for a lucrative property deal in London.

There have been voices on the internet claiming that democracy is in crisis and that people are giving up on it. If that’s the case, then it’s because we don’t have enough democracy in Britain. Last year we saw three prime ministers come and go, but were not allowed to elect any of them. It’s high time this changed.

More democracy, Tories out!

David Hume’s Plan for an Ideal Commonwealth

January 12, 2023

David Hume is the Scottish philosopher best known for his attack on natural theology and the arguments for the Lord’s existence from nature. He was conservative in his political opinions, believing that the British constitution as it existed in his time was perfect and could not be improved. Nevertheless, he also indulged in utopian speculation himself in his ‘Idea for an Ideal Commonwealth’. John Plamenatz writes of it in his Man and Society From Montesquieu to the Early Socialists (Harlow: Longman 1992)

‘Of the actual scheme of government imagined by Hume, I need say very little. It owes more to Harrington’s Oceania than to any earlier model. It is elaborate, ingenious and moderate. Everyone with a moderate property has the vote, and there is therefore a large electorate: the voters elect one hundred separate county assemblies which between them have the legislative power; these assemblies elect the county magistrates and the national Senate, which has the executive power and appoints the Protector, the Secretaries of State and various councils; all proposals of law are debated in the Senate before they are referred to the county assemblies; the representatives or magistrates of any county may send a law to their senator for proposal to the Senate. Hume thinks that all free government should consist to two councils, a smaller and a larger; because the larger, which represents the people directly , would lack wisdom without the smaller (the Senate), and the smaller would lack honesty without the people. The people, through their representatives, must debate the laws and not merely vote on them. If they were to do this in only one large national assembly, there would be confusion. But divide them into many small assemblies, and they can be trusted, properly enlightened by the Senate, to act in the public interest. Hume’s scheme is one of checks and balances meant to give some power to all men of property, but much more to the rich and educated than to the rest. Its purpose, to use Hume’s words, is to ‘refine the democracy’, from the lower sort of people, who merely elect the county representatives, upwards through these representatives, to the Senate and the higher magistrates, who between them direct the business of the whole State as distinct from the business of the counties’. (P.86).

It’s a hierarchical political idea from a man of a much more hierarchical age. But it’s not too different from representative democracy, in which the people elect a class of governors to represent them, on the assumption that they are better able to do it than they are. As for the county assemblies electing the Senate, I think in the Netherlands the upper house is elected by the local authorities, which isn’t too far away from Harrington’s and Hume’s recommendation. I thought I’d put up a piece about here as Starmer has once again mooted reforming the House of Lords, and it’s interesting seeing the ideas previous ages had for the ideal consitution.

Starmer Brings Back Labour Plan to Abolish House of Lords

December 13, 2022

Last week it was revealed that Keir Starmer intends to abolish the House of Lords. Before I go any further, I should say that I have no idea what he wants to replace it with. I caught a few seconds of a video put up by GB News or one of the other god-awful right-wing YouTube channels of a Starmer being laid into on this issue by Peter Hitchens. From the few seconds I saw, Hitchens was accusing him of wishing to make all the members of the upper house appointed by the Prime Minister. Hitchens stated that this would be undemocratic, which is absolutely right, if true. But the debate is also more than a little familiar. Back in 1986 or 87 the papers carried reports that the Labour party then wanted to abolish the House of Lords. I think they also plans to reform the House of Commons to make it more democratic, which would have involved giving more power to the speaker. Then there were Tony Blair’s reforms in the late ’90s and early part of this century.

Blair took on the objection to the House of Lords that it was an unelected, undemocratic anachronism. It is. It is, or was, a remnant of feudalism, the old medieval grand council in which the king or the prince was advised by the kingdom’s great lords. It goes all the way back to the witangemot, the council of wise men, in Anglo-Saxon England and similar feudal assemblies in the Carolingian Empire and other states on the continent. Such an assembly is outdated and against the basic principles of democratic representation. On the other hand, it had the advantage of being cheap. Or so I heard it said at the time these reforms were being mooted. The other argument, put forward by really reactionary Tories, was that the hereditary peers deserved the place because they were better fitted to it through centuries of breeding and education. Which is the old Tory argument that all the great civilisations had an aristocracy that cost them an election in the early part of the past century. I don’t think it’s a vote winner, but I’ve no doubt that Jacob Rees-Mogg probably believed in it. He started his career as an aspiring MP campaigning for the seat of a Scots fishing town. He proudly announced that he was standing on a platform of trying to convince the local people that an unelected, hereditary upper house was actually a great institution. Obviously he didn’t succeed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the SNP vote didn’t increase in that constituency as a result.. Blair reformed the House partly by appointing some of its members, and subsequent Prime Ministers have done the same, so that the number of peers is now 800-odd, far more than the House of Commons and even the governing political assembly of the Chinese Communist party. The peers get an allowance for turning up, and so there have been scandals and accusations that many of them just stick their head through the door long enough to claim their cheque before zooming off to business elsewhere. And the opposition objected at the time that Blair’s reform was hardly democratic. He was denounced as a new Cromwell, who was packing parliament with his supporters, just as England’s Lord \Protector and the butcher of Ireland had done during the Interregnum.

The suggested alternative was to transform the upper house into a senate like America’s. It would still have the duty of checking and amending legislation, but would be elected. According to Private Eye, there was no real enthusiasm behind this idea. People didn’t want to have to go through another round of elections, and the lack of popular support for such a chamber would mean that only mediocrities would serve in it. This must have been the view of the powers that be, or something similar, because the plan seems to have vanished soon after.

.I believe that the current House of Lords needs to be cut down, and no, I don’t want membership of the House to be by prime ministerial appointment. But I also don’t see any point in reforming it radically. The precise nature of the House of Lords doesn’t actually bother me to anywhere near the extent that this country needs a return to the social democratic consensus pre-Maggie. Privatisation has failed, and the Tory welfare reforms are leaving people cold and starving. We need to renationalise the utilities and the railways, as well as the NHS, which should be properly funded. We needed to reverse the destruction of the welfare state so people aren’t left dependent on food banks and private charity to feed themselves if they’re unemployed or disabled. And we need to make sure working people are paid a proper wage for exactly the same reason, not to mention nationalising the energy companies so that people pay less for the fuel and electricity bills and aren’t faced with the decision whether to heat their homes, pay the rent or eat. All this is far more pressing and important than tinkering with the constitution.

But I think the mooted reform of the House of Lords is another example of Starmer wishing to emulate Blair. And Blair wanted to make Britain more like America. But our political system is different. It’s parliamentary, not presidential, and that does apparently affect the results of Blair’s reforms, including his changes to the judiciary. There’s a very interesting video of David Starkey explaining this, put up by the New Culture Forum. Starkey is, of course, a terrible old reactionary while the New Culture Forum are the cultural wing of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a right-wing Buxton Street think tank that wants to privatise everything Thatcher, Major and Blair haven’t already sold off, including the NHS. But Starkey makes a very good case for the incompatibility of British and American constitutional systems.

But most of all I’m afraid that this constitutional tinkering is in lieu of practical policies, that will make a real difference to Britain’s poor and working people. Such as the return to proper, socialist, or at least social democratic politics. Blair changed the constitution, but didn’t change Tory government policies. He just carried on with them once he was in power. In fact, he ramped them up and went much further in the privatisation of the NHS than the Tories had dared.

And I’m afraid Starmer will do likewise.