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Sjoerd Westenborg's Avatar Comment 1 by Sjoerd Westenborg

Ok, stupid question. But I just realised this now. Doesn't the UK have a separation of State & Church clause somewhere? I know bishops in the House of Lords have been there for ages but an argument from tradition is sooo 1661.

Not even in the USA members of the clergy have legislative power by virtue of their position within a church. Then again, they have their fair share of theocrats already.

Anyone care to share some light on as to why this mostly enlightened country is so backwards in this regard?

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 12:59:10 UTC | #937196

Sliver69's Avatar Comment 2 by Sliver69

I've just e-mailed my MP to voice my strong opposition to this. In a true democracy, members of both houses should be elected. I believe in a secular governement. Gifting seats in the House of Lords to Bishops, or anyone else for that matter, is completely unacceptable. Wheather you sit in the Upper House or Lower House, you should be there on merit through democratic elections.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:08:39 UTC | #937198

78rpm's Avatar Comment 3 by 78rpm

I am sitting here in the U.S. infuriated on your behalf and unable to do anything to help you.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:12:59 UTC | #937200

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 4 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 1 by Sjoerd Westenborg

But I just realised this now. Doesn't the UK have a separation of State & Church clause somewhere?

Nope...the Queen is the head of state and the head of the established church (Anglican). How could it be separate with unelected clergy sitting in the upper house?

I know bishops in the House of Lords have been there for ages but an argument from tradition is sooo 1661.

Tell us about it....that is a major part of the issue.

Not even in the USA members of the clergy have legislative power by virtue of their position within a church. Then again, they have their fair share of theocrats already.

To be quite honest, I think religions influence on the UK government pales in light of the impact religion has on the US government.

Anyone care to share some light on as to why this mostly enlightened country is so backwards in this regard?

You already said it...tradition.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:27:22 UTC | #937207

Hideous Dwarf's Avatar Comment 5 by Hideous Dwarf

Despite this traditional anomaly, we do have an atheist as Deputy Prime Minister and nobody gives a hoot. Perhaps when the USA has one for Vice President you guys might have earned the right to teach us about 'church & state'.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:35:06 UTC | #937209

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 6 by hellosnackbar

The unholy elisions practised by theocrats should be seen as an exclusion from a seat in the house of lords . In many ways I defend my culture against comic intrusions like Mohammedanism ; but putting unelected clerics in the House of Lords is a mutatis mutandis issue.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:37:34 UTC | #937211

old-toy-boy's Avatar Comment 7 by old-toy-boy

A note of caution if I may. I have been thinking about Bishops in the house of Lord, and would ask this, What is worse than having a bunch of unelected Bishops in the Lords? ... answer ... a bunch of indirectly elected politicians answerable only to their political party and the party whip. We already have that in the house of commons. Quite frankly it would just duplicate the house of commons, clearly most of them cannot be trusted to run the country.

If the house of Lords is to have any relevance, their members need to be independent of political parties. Sure, have them elected, but disqualify any candidate who has been an active politician in the previous (say) 10 years. And while you are at it, if they don't turn up for work for a few days in a year, then 'Dispense with their services'.

The house of Lords must not be mad into a retirement job for ex-politicians. I suspect this real reason the 'reform'.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:07:15 UTC | #937219

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 8 by quarecuss

It's the House of Lords is the problem, not the bishops per se. Here in Canada, patronage appointments to the "upper house" Senate have the same reactionary effect on our political system.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:09:52 UTC | #937220

Outrider's Avatar Comment 9 by Outrider

Well, e-mail sent off to Steve Brine MP - he's openly and vocally Christian, but he did speak out in support of the amendments to the assisted dying bill, so he does have his secular moments. Let's see what comes of it.

O.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:32:23 UTC | #937224

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 10 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 5 by Hideous Dwarf

Despite this traditional anomaly, we do have an atheist as Deputy Prime Minister and nobody gives a hoot. Perhaps when the USA has one for Vice President you guys might have earned the right to teach us about 'church & state'.

For all the good Clegg is, as much use as a chocolate fire-guard ffs. He might as well be a believer.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:44:31 UTC | #937241

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 11 by strangebrew

Harder to get rid of then crabs, lice and scabies!

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:45:04 UTC | #937242

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 12 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 7 by old-toy-boy

A note of caution if I may. I have been thinking about Bishops in the house of Lord, and would ask this, What is worse than having a bunch of unelected Bishops in the Lords? ... answer ... a bunch of indirectly elected politicians answerable only to their political party and the party whip. We already have that in the house of commons.

I'm not sure I get this...how are the politicians in the commons 'indirectly elected'? If you mean, government, because it is a coalition, that's not the same thing at all. Plenty of countries have had to operate a coalition government, but the members are democratically elected in the seats they stood for, therefore they are representative.

Members of parliament are usually under the auspices of their party and party whip regardless of whether they are a majority government, coalition government or part of the opposition....that's the point of the party whip.

A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party's "enforcers", who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy. A whip's role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken. The usage comes from the hunting term whipping in, i.e. preventing hounds from wandering away from the pack.

An MP doesn't want his party to 'withdraw the whip' or he's out on his arse.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:54:54 UTC | #937245

1Sokkie's Avatar Comment 13 by 1Sokkie

When you want to kill a snake,... you chop of it's head.

Forget the bishops, go after the queen!

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 16:33:23 UTC | #937255

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 14 by strangebrew

.Comment 12 by Ignorant Amos

Plenty of countries have had to operate a coalition government,

This is of course quite true.

Holland is a prime example...and is therefore one of the most politically unstable countries in Europe...

Coalition is a recipe for failure...

PR might sound and be all things to all men and a system where fairness seems to be the governing principle, but it is manifestly flawed in that it has little to no mandate for anyone! Few if any government last more then a couple of years top wack. And any radical policy designed to benefit the lower economically placed populace suggested before an election are rarely seen through with any enthusiasm after the inevitable horse trading and deals are done after the election.

Government crashed last week...again...it must be tedious...they are canvassing yet again.

The Dutch are liberal by inclination but all that stands before them the last few years are the right wing university educated politically correct intellectually dumb...and Wilders...!

I have avoided voting for over 20 years here...see no reason to change my modus operandi...

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 16:49:01 UTC | #937259

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 14 by strangebrew

Coalition is a recipe for failure...

Indeed, how could it be otherwise. Disagreement within individual political parties is rife, so what chance have different parties with differing manifesto's got of getting along. Usually the wee man rolls over for the big man, but sometimes there are compromises and trade off's. I don't have to go as far away as Holland...Eire has had plenty of coalition governments starting with its first and it has been in coalition since elections back in 1989.

Right here in Northern Ireland there will never be anything other than a coalition government in my opinion. The Northern Ireland Assembly epitomises the coalition idea, it spends more time bickering than doing anything else. The problem is, in a place where the divide in the vote is never going to give an overall majority, it is this or nothing.

The point in my criticism is that those elected are not elected 'indirectly', whatever that means. A coalition is a bona fide mechanism to get a government up and running. It takes all parties involved to agree and I'm just saying that each MP has been given a mandate by the electorate to do so, meaning that a coalition government are still a democratically elected government.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 17:36:59 UTC | #937271

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 16 by strangebrew

Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Oh ...totally agree the democracy is preserved in PR induced coalition without a doubt. The Dutch would never go for anything else, the older generation are quite aware of what a dictatorship offers. I get a second hand account now and then, from my Ma-in-law, of the nazi occupation in WW2.

Man it was...horrendous...and the brutality against the populace in Amsterdam was the stuff of sheer nightmare and daily, so me doubts they are in a hurry to get back there in a hurry.

But it is the civil servants that run the country by default.....the politicians are far to busy attempting to oust one and other in the chamber...little actual policy is ever discussed, this is all power politics, but the irony is that because the country is so small having total domination ...gets you no where...cos then you got to actually do something!

Policy still has to be undertaken, but original policy is unheard of..so .it is government by compromise anyway and the Dutch folk are happy enough by allowing those that feel moved to such a pointless career play in the Den Hague sand pit happily smacking each other around the head with the plastic spade.

Seems it keeps them busy and out of the hair of the populace, literally let the bairns play political tag while the grown ups get on with the living!...it works for them in a weird kindda resigned way!

They take absolutely fuck all notice of any politician from any brand of nonsense... Politicians are not regarded anywhere near the semi-troll like stature of Blighty.

In fact they regard them as paid lunatics more to be pitied then worshipped...they just let them get on with it regardless, and then do their own thing anyway's ...

Like the smoking ban...they did it for a while...6 months and then worked out that charging those that smoke a euro would cover the cost of any fine they might get...the authorities have even stopped handing those out...cost to much to administer , no one is bothered and the politicians are to busy playing king 'o' the chamber.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:14:30 UTC | #937279

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 17 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 16 by strangebrew

Man it was...horrendous...and the brutality against the populace in Amsterdam was the stuff of sheer nightmare and daily, so me doubts they are in a hurry to get back there in a hurry.

I'm sure it was, those bastards had little regard for anyone other than themselves. I watched a harrowing documentary about American G.I.'s that were P.O.W.'d at the Bulge and became concentration camp statistics in Buchenwald.

Hundreds of American GIs Held in Concentration Camp

About 350 American POWs who either were Jewish or appeared to be to their German captors were imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II, according to survivors who have begun telling their stories in a series of special reports on CNN.

I can't begin to imagine what it was like to live under such tyranny.

Holland ain't the worst place to be living now though....my brother has been manager of a bar in Amsterdam for ten years now, he likes the place. I visited when I was serving, 20 years ago and I found the place 'liberating'.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:31:27 UTC | #937282

Rob_Pm's Avatar Comment 18 by Rob_Pm

E-mail sent. Will it do any good? That's highly doubtful, but it's an argument worth having.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:40:31 UTC | #937284

Geoff 21's Avatar Comment 19 by Geoff 21

It's possible to define the purpose of the second house as that of slowing and hindering the legislative process. In that sense the bishops are a positive advantage. A sort of constitutional attempt to prevent 'future shock'.

The only reason I've ever been able to come up with for the presence of the hereditary peers is that they are amongst the very few parts of society that has a culture which thinks in the long term. Planting cedars on the lawn to be enjoyed by their generational successors, with assured arrogance that the family will still be there.

With democracy only the least bad system yet discovered of running things, still I wish that intellectual attainment (or, at the least, capability) could be factored into the equation. On those grounds Lord Russell would have been ejected as an hereditary but accepted on intellectual merit. How many current members of either house would stay, if there were a minimum required IQ? ...not that IQ is paramount, but it is a prerequisite to the understanding of the business of Parliament.

A short stroll down Memory Lane to 2007 is all that's needed to help people decide if they want ignorant prats like the Right Reverend Graham Dow, Bigot of Carlisle deciding our laws.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:19:41 UTC | #937301

The Big Holey Cheese's Avatar Comment 20 by The Big Holey Cheese

Just sent my email.

Is this not a suitable issue for forcing a debate on i.e an internet petition. Doesn't it need 100,000 signatures to effect or is this type of thing too late?

Is it not also the case that there would be a reasonable argument to be made that if so many bishops are ok then surely there should be representations for other belief groups. I sense the need to push for a Jedi Lord to be appointed, just to keep things fair. No doubt we can expect all other groups of the believing to clamor for their own representatives or cry discrimination whilst those who are truly discriminated against (i.e atheists) are ignored totally.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:30:21 UTC | #937306

littletrotsky13's Avatar Comment 21 by littletrotsky13

I think what comment 7 was saying is that most of the non-hereditary members of the house of lords are put there directly by a sponsoring political party, and that they tend to be former frontbenchers in their party, hence lords kinnock (lab), hurd (con) and prescott (lab), just to name the 3 I can remember off the top of my head, and that this may be the result of a major reform.

The issues with the second house are that it's essentially a body to slow down and modify (generally to moderate) acts of parliament. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially if parliament's rushing something through) its present form is definitively unfair and unnaccountable.

I'd personnally go with one of two options for the house of lords:

1)Create an entirely elected second house, and do it by PR, where the party shortlists its lords candidates and the order in which they would get seats in (i.e. they get enough votes for 1 seat the first person on the list only gets a seat etc.), where a government doesn't need to be formed and as a result the issue about coalitions is (hopefully) moot. This would allow governments to be formed (in the commons) while still creating a more representative democracy. Admittedly this would still mean that those shortlists would be crammed with senior party politicians, but it would mean that minor parties might get a voice (in a proportional election there'd be no need for tactical voting).

2)Abolish the second house completely, and work it with a single house.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:35:45 UTC | #937310

gordon's Avatar Comment 22 by gordon

The sad thing is that living here in the UK, I have to wake up every morning and realise that I am a 'subject', not a citizen. I would like to live in a democracy. One day we may have one. This is one of the reasons I could never vote for the Conservatives. They exist, despite all the bluster to 'Conserve'. To stop change and I want change. As much as possible! The whole party system stinks as it encourages short term thinking, 5 year policies. The Church of England exists to support the Monarchy. It has no other mission. It was the reason for it's birth.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:45:07 UTC | #937314

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 23 by Vorlund

email sent.

It is not just bishops it is the whole institution of unelected peers made up of interfering ex politicians who should be compulorily retired after leaving the commons, worse still hereditary peers who are an anachronistic curse on a modern and secular society, and even worse still the sky god peddlars.

The whole bloody house should be dissolved.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 06:54:15 UTC | #937400

foxhole atheist 14's Avatar Comment 24 by foxhole atheist 14

The whole things a joke, we should have a republican secular govenment 100 per cent elected

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 09:41:02 UTC | #937425

Tycho the Dog's Avatar Comment 25 by Tycho the Dog

Email sent to my MP...

Dear Sir,

I am writing with regard to the proposed reform of the House of Lords, and in particular the proposal that Bishops of the Church of England should continue to be appointed to the House purely on the virtue of their role with the CoE.

This proposal is fundamentally discriminatory and undemocratic: it is discriminatory since it favours the CoE over and above any other religious or non-religious group, and sexually discriminatory since it automatically exclude females; it is undemocratic, self-evidently, since appointees lack any democratic mandate, and especially so since the CoE cannot realistically claim to represent the views of its members, or any other Christian sect - indeed, its views on many important issues are significantly out of touch with current opinion, both amongst self-identiying Christians and the population as a whole.

Reserving places for representatives of any organisation within an otherwise elected legislature is clearly antithetical to attempts to make the House of Lords more transparent, just, and accountable. The truly democratic solution is a wholly elected chamber.

I would hope, therefore, that you would support the introduction of a fully elected upper chamber, rather than one that gives undue preference to any special interest group.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 10:23:01 UTC | #937431

old-toy-boy's Avatar Comment 26 by old-toy-boy

In response to Comment 12 by Ignorant Amos

I'm not sure I get this...how are the politicians in the commons 'indirectly elected'?

Surely you are aware that the UK voting population only get to 'vote' once every 5 years of so. Even then, only upon whole groups of policies. We the people, cannot democratically pick and choose which policies we want. We do not directly choose who gets to be prime minister or the monarch. The main functions of the main political parties is winning the next election and self preservation. So we end up with politicians under the whip. So when they are doing their job (in the commons), they do not vote based on 'what is best for the country' or even the majority of their constituents want, (never mind what is in the interest of future generations), they vote as dictated to by their political party. They represent their political party.

Your description of the whip system, (again comment 12), clearly defines the politicians' priorities, and they are clearly not for the people, or the country.

I want, ... no, ... we need, representatives in second house to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country and people. Not political flunkies.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 11:21:47 UTC | #937445

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 21 by littletrotsky13

I think what comment 7 was saying is that most of the non-hereditary members of the house of lords are put there directly by a sponsoring political party, and that they tend to be former frontbenchers in their party, hence lords kinnock (lab), hurd (con) and prescott (lab), just to name the 3 I can remember off the top of my head, and that this may be the result of a major reform.

The issues with the second house are that it's essentially a body to slow down and modify (generally to moderate) acts of parliament. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially if parliament's rushing something through) its present form is definitively unfair and unaccountable.

You would need people with some experience of the working of the commons, in order to be effective in a second house.

1)Create an entirely elected second house, and do it by PR, where the party shortlists its lords candidates and the order in which they would get seats in

I would oppose this. PR gives the national political parties almost all the say in who is elected, by selecting the order of candidates on their lists. I think candidates selected by local support for individuals of merit is better.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:49:27 UTC | #937483

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 28 by Zeuglodon

Sent an email. I'm getting tired of religious exceptionalism.

Comment 26 by old-toy-boy

Removing religious authorities from the House of Lords doesn't open the gate for more politicians. The number of members in the House is not fixed, and the Lords Temporal aren't restricted to politicians.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Lords#Membership

Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Lords Temporal have been the most numerous group in the House of Lords. Unlike the Lords Spiritual, they may be publicly partisan, aligning themselves with one or another of the political parties that dominate the House of Commons. Publicly non-partisan Lords are called crossbenchers. Originally, the Lords Temporal included several hundred hereditary peers (that is, those whose peerages may be inherited), who ranked variously as dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons (as well as Scottish Lords of Parliament). Such hereditary dignities can be created by the Crown, in modern times on the advice of the Prime Minister of the day.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossbencher

Crossbench members of the British House of Lords are not aligned to any particular party. These include the judges appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. In addition, former Speakers of the House of Commons (such as Lord Martin and Baroness Boothroyd) and former Lord Speakers of the House of Lords (such as Baroness Hayman), who by convention are not aligned with any party, also sit as Crossbenchers.

By their own description, many Crossbenchers are known for bringing specialist knowledge to the House,1 since most Crossbenchers have been created peers for reasons other than party or political affiliation.[citation needed] Since 2000, the House of Lords Appointments Commission has nominated a total of 57 non-party-political life peers (as of 2011), who joined the House of Lords as Crossbenchers.

As of 1 October 2011, there are 183 Crossbenchers in the House of Lords—making them the third largest grouping after the Labour and Conservative parties. Of this total, 151 are life peers and 32 are hereditary peers (including a royal office-holder).2 From April 2007 to 2009, the number of Crossbenchers was higher than the number of Conservatives in the Lords for the first time.[3]

Although the Lords Spiritual (archbishops and senior bishops of the Church of England) also have no party affiliation, they are not considered Crossbenchers and do not sit on the crossbenches, their seats being on the Government side of the Lords Chamber.[4]

Crossbenchers are the current best means of reducing the risks of partisanship you address. What is clear is that they at least have political and other relevant qualifications like judiciary experience. The one thing we don't need are people getting put into a position of power when they have no actual qualifications other than irrelevant theological ones. Between the crossbenchers and the Lords Spiritual, I know which one I'd rather have as a non-partisan party.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 15:24:15 UTC | #937493

Roedy's Avatar Comment 29 by Roedy

It is ironic. With the Magna Carta, the British got the ball rolling on the notion of democracy, but seem to have more trouble than anyone dropping the dregs of hereditary privilege like the house of lords and the opulent queen. You need a ceremonial head of state to open bridges and the like, but they don't need a budget like Queen Elizabeth's

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 17:03:02 UTC | #937511

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 30 by mjwemdee

E-mail sent. We have to keep the pressure up.

I had already written to the MP last week, asking her to state which way she was intending to vote on the general issue of House of Lords reform. I got back a long-winded essay (no doubt computer-generated) about government proposals etc., but would she declare her own hand...? Of course not. These people are incapable of answering straight questions. I included a veiled threat of withdrawing my support as constituent. (She never had it anyway - you reap what you sow!)

I used to live in the Netherlands, with their 'paarse coalities' ('purple' coalitions). Political life there seemed rather dull - an administration, but not a government. Nowhere is there a perfect system, only a choice of imperfect ones.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 17:04:38 UTC | #937512