Joyce McMillan’s one of the country’s best writers, finest cultural commentators and, as I experienced first hand with her on the stump in Comrie, a pretty effective public speaker too.
Most of what she writes here is spot-on: “Joyce McMillan: Yes or No, future is ours to write” – particularly this:
“What is important is that we make the inner journey; that we know ourselves, that we stop buying into definitions imposed from elsewhere, and that instead of emphasising the celebrity cult of political leadership, we start focusing on the people without whose grassroots support and involvement politicians are nothing but sounding brass and empty suits.”
…which chimes precisely with what I was arguing here.
Joyce is on a journey, with huge swathes of the country, some call it a move towards a heightened state of consciousness, others call it just giving yourself a good shake. Her belief in a social democratic British polity is touching, but increasingly unfathomable.
There’s a residual confusion. There’s still a remnant belief in the UK delivering in the future. There’s still a folk-memory operating which believes in Britain as a progressive possibility. I’m not sure if the title was hers or the Scotsman’s but it’s quite wrong. Vote No and we will not be writing our future anytime soon. Voting no is handing power and possibility over. Over and out.
The reality is that a centralised, hereditary system will be safe and secure from the hordes of Northern democrats.
Today the Electoral Reform Society reveals that the 22 newly appointed peers have donated nearly £7m to political parties, neatly exposing the myth that the House of the Lords is a chamber full of independent experts. Instead it appears to be a way for party political people to achieve high office without submitting themselves to elections.
16 of the 22 new peers have previously held political positions (either elected or employed).
This is just Crony Britain over and over. Gongs and favours for the favourite sons of Westminster. Ermine for the boys.
Commenting on the ‘super-sized’ House of Lords, Katie Ghose added:
“These appointments further cement the impression that to get into the House of Lords, all you have to do is write a fat cheque to a political party or be a party hack. The second chamber is a crucial part of our political system, with real legislative power. It cannot be right that people are effectively able to buy a seat at the highest level of politics. It is the founding principle of democracy that we should be able to choose those who govern us. Until we have an elected second chamber, as opposed to one full to the brim with favoured sons and daughters, we will not be getting the democracy we deserve.
At this rate it won’t be long before we have twice as many unelected Lords as we do elected MPs. That’s clearly an affront to democracy, but it also raises all sorts of practical problems. There simply isn’t enough room for them all. In fact, the only reason the Lords is still able to function at all is because so many don’t show up for work.”
This is a disgrace, but it also points to a problem of an analysis of Britain and t’s rosy democratic future. All parties have been promising reform of the House of Lords for about 100 years. It’s not going to happen. Britain is institutionally resistant to change. Not because anyone is better or worse – more right or more left than anyone else – it’s just that that’s how power works. It inoculates itself against change.
When Joyce concludes:
“…And when we have done all that, then let’s vote; not with fear of others or of ourselves, but with love, solidarity and hope, whether our choice is for a new Scotland, or for an old UK perhaps entering an unprecedented age of change” you have to ask yourself, is that actually feasible?
What unprecedented age of change will the UK be entering?