Among the many and mighty messes that we are in, the product of two decades or more of fiddling the figures and ducking the difficult questions there is the British Constitution, now better described as the British Constipation. I will refrain from explaining the precise implications of this comparison.
For the sake of simplicity given the size of the problem in this case the issue will be just how many members of the two Houses we might have, the related question of what purposes they may serve and the crucial one of how they are elected.
In the case of the House of Lords, the reasons for the sharp inflation of numbers recently are clear enough. Changes of government lead to the new one ensuring that the House of Lords cannot be too obstructive, so another large batch is needed when that happens.
Then there are all the prominent people of one sort or another who need to be paid off for services rendered and a life peerage is a useful part of the package and adds to their incomes and status. As the Lords are supposed to deal with laws and other devices of government, inevitably squads of lawyers are needed, despite the removal of the specialist Law Lords.
So something that started off as a few tens of associate Royals and their cousins and other leading magnates of the first order has ballooned to over a thousand assorted persons who are essentially political, not elected and apparently without any really clear mandate about what they are there for.
Basically, it is like a train that has no driver and with all the seats occupied by guards, ticket collectors and free riders. What a way to run a railway.
The House of Commons began as a place for the lesser landowners who were not peers, representatives of certain boroughs and a small number of others. The Union with
added a number and the later Union with added a lot more. Along with this and the mission creep of
government were gradual additions. Ireland
Now we have well over six hundred each supposedly representative of a real and particular community. This is elected by a first past the post system which entails a high proportion with less than fifty per cent of the vote and given the decline in turn out recently, often around only thirty per cent of their electorate.
This has had its problems. After 1945 this meant a Labour Party dominated by its “safe seats” with heartlands in area with limited types of working tradition. In the large areas of this kind the consequence has been negligible representation of other interests within those areas.
For the Tories there is much the same, only producing representatives of a different kind. One upshot has been that in largely rural areas there has been little or no representation of the lower farming classes who also have missed out in Labour held areas. You could add to this.
The result is that the Commons has never been a truly representative body. On top of this the disappearance of the old landed class on the Tory side and the loss of the industrial and related elites of Labour has led in the last two decades to the bulk of both parties being largely in the hands of the London Mediocracy which includes all the professional politicians.
While this has been going on there has developed wide disparities in the number of electors between constituencies with little apparent reason other than historical accident. Also, the cut and shuffle of recent decades mean that the “community” is anything but that.
The Liberal Democrats have nailed their flag to their version of House of Lords reform, including the asinine fifteen year terms of office. As enough Conservative members have seen that it does not make sense and blocked it the Liberal Democrats intend to prevent any constituency reorganisation.
This was a weak and limited enough project. What should have be envisaged is a way to reduce the Commons to about 450 members at most elected on a basis that would be more representative of the broad sweep of the electorate. For the Lords possibly a figure of 250 maximum would make sense if the functions were to be relatively limited.
Whilst people expect the Coalition to survive until 2015, if only by default, if it does collapse over Constitutional issues at a time of burgeoning crisis and the election delivers a government of the Labour London Lickspittles who did so much to create the mess we are in, then the end of the UK could be nigh.
It might be that enough right minded people may come forward to grasp the reins of power, it may be that a coup of some kind could occur, Sinbad Boris and his Bully Boys or if it all turns nasty a revolution.
Watch the bond markets, anything could happen.