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The unexpected genius of Parliament?

Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail offers provocative words in the Wall Street Journal’s print edition about the House of Commons’ decision to require an elected House of Lords:

Now comes the impolite question: er, have they made a ghastly mistake? Is it not possible that the undemocratic elitism of the House of Lords was its greatest genius? Did its muddled, cozy provenance not perhaps serve, over the centuries, to make Britain a stronger kingdom and a more stable ally?

The old Lords, holding no mandate from the electorate, was prepared to ignore populist or emotive arguments. What was the point of knee-jerk legislation where you were there for life? Lords were not accountable to any constituency except wisdom. They were perfectly happy to tell their party whips to get lost. . .

The Lords showed a clearer appreciation for personal liberty than the elected Commons. When there were threats to jury trial and habeas corpus, introduced by “something must be done” merchants in response to al Qaeda, it was the House of Lords that resisted the authoritarians.

To an untrained American eye, the Life Peers at least seem to resemble our Supreme Court, whose members are appointed for life by the President and approved (or rejected) by Congress.

Electing the Lords might seem like an improvement, but will it be all that good for the House of Commons? For almost a century the House has denigrated the “undemocratically constituted” Lords, and claimed to be the only real show in town. Once the Lords are elected, will this new House take the same dim view of the Commons that the US Senate takes of the House of Representatives?

A number of MPs said that their vote came as a result of the “elephant” in the room – the Government 's apparent willingness to sell seats in the House of Lords. If MPs can notice this elephant, many people will wonder how they can fail to see the herd of elephants thundering down on them in the shape of the EU.

For more on the EU, check out SOS or the EU file.

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