The picture on the front page of the Evening Standard of the Queen shaking the bloody hand of Martin McGuinness filled me with despair. The man should have been put on trial for multiple murder and for involvement in many more. Instead his hand is shaken by Her Majesty who, no doubt, had to go and spend some time washing her own fingers afterwards. It is appalling that she was made to do this. I cannot even begin to imagine how survivors of murderous attacks and families of those who had not survived must have felt.
Compared to that, the information that Tony Blair was guest-editing the paper elicited nothing but a snort of derision from me. The Standard is so bad that even Blair could not make it appreciably worse though I did leaf through it even faster than usual, speeding past his cronies Bill (Clinton), Bob (Geldof) and others.
If I thought Sarah Sands, the editor, capable of such a joke, I would have assumed that she deliberately handed the editing over to Blair today so she would not be responsible for the first publication of that dreadful picture (no I am NOT linking to it) but I really do not think she has enough sense for that.
The other depressing news is that the wrecking of the House of Lords misnamed reform is going ahead though I am looking forward to it tying up Parliamentary time to the exclusion of absolutely everything else. This may be Cameron's Hunting Bill, which took seven years, interminable hours of debate and was finally passed in a seriously botched version.
It seems that Cameron, who spoke in support of this measure at PMQ has threatened to sack any Minister who opposes this utterly un-Conservative piece of legislation. There are threatened rebellions but, as usual, I do not hold out much hope. The best one can assume is amendments that develop into long debates though, as usual, there is talk of guillotining these in the Commons, which would be outrageous on a matter of constitutional change.
The egregious Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the Lib-Dims who managed not to improve on their electoral achievement two years ago and whose support has been sinking steadily since then, has told us in his own inimitable fashion:
We should just get on with it. I hope people won’t tie themselves in knots in Westminster. It’s something people want.I have not come across many people outside the rather ridiculous Westminster hothouse who do want this or even care about it.
When it comes to MPs, that is members of the elected House, the public is quite adamant:
The head of the Commons anti-sleaze watchdog today warned MPs they should be “very worried” over reforms to their pay and pensions.
Ken Olisa, senior board member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, has received scores of damning assessments of politicians’ value during his review of parliamentary salaries.
Responses from the public branded MPs “despicable, incompetent, corrupt and treacherous” and said they “should get paid the same amount as British Army privates”.Maybe it is time the government had a look at the Commons. Oh wait, they have had a look. So far they have managed to legislate on a set parliamentary term, have controlled the possibility of introducing a vote of no confidence, made two attempts to control the 1922 Committee and are now intent on destroying the independence of the House of Lords. Not, I think, a government that cares about democracy, constitutionalism or liberty. Yet their vandalism of the British Constitution is applauded by the very people who should find it abhorrent.
An elected House of Lords, I hear in jubilation from members of the party formerly known as Conservative and others of UKIP. We are progressing towards democracy.
Well, that depends on your definition of democracy. If it consists of nothing else but voting and the right for anyone who gets more votes than other candidates to do whatever they like, then these people should be supporters of the European Parliament (UKIP might be since that is the only place in which they can get any seats) and of an elected EU President. Surely, once that President is directly elected by the people, or however small proportion of them bothers to vote, it will all be democratic.
If, on the other hand, one thinks of the need to control elected dictatorships, the need for some balance in the political structure and the need for independence in at least some of our legislators, then possibly an elected House of Lords is not the answer to the problems we are facing.
Of course, this is all displacement activity. As I asked one Conservative MP who was pontificating on the need to reform the House of Lords in such a way as not to lose the primacy enjoyed by the Commons, what does any of it matter while most of our legislation comes from the EU? She refused to discuss the matter, dismissing the European issue as of no importance. That tells you a great deal about Conservative MPs and their understanding of the legislative process.