'Another Country' Conference - Lord Sudeley synopsis
Please find Lord Sudeley's synopsis for our 'Another Country' Conference below.
Lord Sudeley: Synopsis of Talk on the Lords for the 'Another Country' Conference
'Lords reform was tried and failed – before Blair, and after him. Why was he able to bring the country to a constitutional crisis, by getting rid of most of the Hereditaries in 1999, putting in the biggest number of political placemen into the upper chamber and why has Lords reform failed under other governments, including the current one?
Blair used two methods to evict the hereditaries . He started with Stage I, that is, the eviction of the hereditaries, without giving any definition of Stage II – which has never arrived – of what to put in their place. Secondly, he put Cranborne up to his Deal of sparing temporarily 92 of the hereditaries as a ploy to split Conservative opposition in the Lords.
Blair’s path to reform was anyway made so much easier owing to the inadequate teaching of English history, including constitutional history in our schools. An understanding of how our land has built its institutions and made its reforms over the ages shows clearly how our constitution has evolved on a prescriptive rather than any doctrinaire basis, where change was only allowed when it was practically necessary. The advantages of the hereditary compared to the elective principle of government are obvious: it has a longer view, favours stability and acts as a check on the elective short-termism and wish for reform. This was well understood in ancient Greece, and in the 18th century with its sensible compromise of a Mixed Constitution which includes both principles, one balancing the other, which is exactly what we had before Blair’s cull of 1999.
The two alternatives to the hereditaries, an appointed or an elected Upper Chamber, are equally unsatisfactory. An elected Upper Chamber which David Cameron calls for could never work because the Commons is too jealous of its own authority. The most sensible road to take is to restore the hereditaries in order to reinstate the historically proven balance of the two main, that is to say, hereditary and elective, principles of government. Unfortunately this road has been obstructed by a lack of will on the part of our politicians who prefer to stay out of touch with the sympathies of the electorate. When Blair evicted the hereditaries an Opinion Poll showed most of the electorate did not want any reform of the Lords without knowing of something better in its place. Sadly, neither the media, bent on toff-bashing, nor the country’s leaders chose to listen to the public in 1999. The hereditaries themselves, while always ready to fight and be killed for their country, would never fight for themselves. It is up to the public to raise its voice in support of the restoration of the necessary checks and balances in our constitution. '
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