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It's time to end the rule of bishops and barons.


A MATHEMATICAL theorem states that an infinite number of monkeys armed with typewriters could, if given an infinite amount of time, come up with the complete works of Shakespeare, or maybe it was the Mabinogion.

If that's true then an infinite number of Nick Cleggs could, if given an infinite number of referenda, eventually win one.

But given the LibDems' leader's status as the most shop-soiled politician in the UK, I wouldn't count on it.

Mr Clegg's reverse Midas touch means that any cause taken up by him is almost certainly doomed to failure.

That's a pity, because on the matter of bringing democracy to the House of Lords, the LibDem leader is right.

It is an affront to democracy that unelected people make laws which the rest of us have to obey.

If somebody suggested that our National Assembly should be comprised of some hand picked friends of the current party leaders, some deacons nominated by Presbyterians from Penrhyndeudraeth, the eighth earl of Eglwysbach and Lord Barking of Bangor, their sobriety might well be called into question.

But that is precisely the way that the lawmakers who sit on the red benches just along the corridor from the House of Commons get their jobs. The UK and Iran are the only two countries in the world who automatically reserve seats for religious leaders in their Parliaments. Neither the bishops, nor anyone else who sits there, has the slightest legitimacy.

Reform of the unelected half of Parliament has been tried on several occasions before and has defeated far more able characters than Mr Clegg. At least he now has the support of all parties for the not terribly radical proposal that the upper house should be democratically elected.

Turning that support into legislation will be a tough process: defenders of the status quo will not give up their unearned privileges lightly.

It has been widely accepted that issues of major constitutional change should be placed before the people in a referendum.

That was the case in 1975 when the UK joined the European Union.

A referendum was also called in 1997 to endorse the creation of the National Assembly, and a further one last year to modify Cardiff''s law making powers.

At one time, we even had referenda on Sunday drinking laws.

I can just remember the Sundays when, from the summit of Moel Famau, one could look west to dry Wales and east to a well refreshed Flintshire.

They were hardly constitutional questions.

But, for some Welsh voters, the ability to decide whether the local tafarn was allowed to open its doors on the Sabbath was a more important question than who gets to make any other law.

A far-reaching and seriously overdue change to replace the "exalted" bloodlines, mates-of-the-party-bosses and bishops with elected representatives should be put before the people.

Even if it means risking the Clegg kiss of death.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2012
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