A brief and not very well thought-out, but sincere yet rambling, post on why I think Scotland should choose independence.
The British version of that overused and inflammatory word democracy is an interesting thing. Its Parliament is bicameral but its upper chamber, the house of lords, is unelected; this house of lords is made up of people who are there because they have titles (a marquess, duke and all that – the belted knights don’t get to sit in the upper house but, interestingly, do get to sit in the lower house). These marquesses, earls, dukes and lords get these titles through inheritance (a subject I’ll leave alone … for now) or (like the knights) as a gift, nominally, from the Monarch (the person with the biggest title in the land but who is not allowed to sit in the upper house), but in reality from the politicians who inhabit the lower, elected chamber, the House of commons. These gift-titles are called life-peerages; they don’t get passed on to the eldest son. I believe but I could be wrong that a person with a title may not serve in the lower house just as an untitled person may not serve in the upper house. It is not uncommon to see members of the upper house who previously have been members of the lower house. So you might forgive my confusion.
Interestingly, and really entertainingly, the British Parliament likes to put on an annual extravaganza designed to demonstrate that the house of commons is the one that’s really in charge called “The State Opening of Parliament.” The lords all assemble in their room and send a man named Black Rod, dressed in a black tunic and stockings and carrying a fancy-looking stick, to the commons. Black Rod parades down hallways with sporadic policemen intoning “hats off gentlemen please” to a hatless crowd. There ensues much slamming of, and rapping on, doors before Black Rod is allowed to enter. He does so, he asks the members of the commons to come to the house of lords. After a bit more door-slamming, the members of the house of commons make a show of sauntering over to the house of lords. All of this, though, only after a member of the house of commons, has been delivered to the custody of the monarch and held hostage ensuring the safe return of the monarch who is, of course, part of the State Opening of Parliament (she delivers a speech written by the leaders of the House of Commons). Charles I started this hostage practice and eventually lost his head for this sort of behaviour. But it’s all jolly good fun! To be fair, I love it. It’s so entertaining to watch. The symbolism is nice and simple like a pawn shop’s balls. The costumes are fantastic. The setting is the Palace of Whitehall. It’s all so wonderfully 1665.
But it’s not democracy. However much the apologists argue that this system is actually democratic because the monarchy and the whole peer-system, including the House of Lords, exist only at the pleasure of the house of commons, they cannot escape the inherent conflict of interest between the member of the lower house who has constituents to answer to and the same politician who can’t fail to notice the path to a life-peerage. There is no incentive for the house of commons to change the current structure.