Saturday, May 29, 2010

No honour in the Lords

One of the many disappointments after thirteen years of a "modernising" New Labour administration is that we still have a second chamber devoid of all democratic accountability.

One change is of course that now the second chamber is determined largely by patronage rather than accidents of birth, and partial modernisation means that we now learn online that "The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention of conferring Peerages of the United Kingdom for Life upon" a selection of political nominees.

The use of twenty-first century communications cannot quite hide the feudal nature of our political system - this list of peerages includes "dissolution honours" and those given peerages will adopt titles with their origins in the Middle Ages.

Whether those on the list feel honoured by the company they keep there I couldn't say.

Jean Charles de Menezes is not here to offer an opinion on Ian Blair's elevation to the House of Lords, but I sympathise with his family who describe this as a "final slap in the face".

That aside I have nothing against those on the list to receive peerages. The two most closely associated with UNISON - Margaret Wheeler and Rita Donaghy are both certainly entitled to recognition for public service and service to the movement.

I cannot shake the feeling though that if people are going to become part of the legislature they should be elected and subject to re-election.

I hope that Rodney Bickerstaffe started a tradition in UNISON when he refused a peerage upon retiring as our General Secretary!

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