Tony Blair’s greatest mistake was not Iraq. It was neglecting wholesale constitutional reform. Two decades later and the cost is obvious: disenchantment, disengagement, and an explosive, fertile compost in which real “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” thrive – charismatic extremists beyond the clever PR construct that is Nigel Farage. Britain faces an existential democratic crisis. Urgent reform is needed of the monarchy, parliament and the voting system. None is fit for purpose.
I have long loathed the monarchy. A mediocre Greco-German family,blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, invokes a non-existent god’s ‘given’ right to allegedly ‘lead’ one of the world’s greatest democracies. It makes no sense. Monarchy speaks to the false controls and faux nostalgia that remain constant barriers to the UK’s global social and economic progress. The monarchy positions itself as a benign, moderating influence, but enshrines anachronistic values and systems within the weighty symbolism of the hereditary principle. To avoid further democratic stagnation, Britain needs an elected Head of State.
“Nowhere is the hereditary principle more visible than in the House of Lords, where 92 semi-incestuous relics remain stranded as a result of Labour’s 1999 compromise.”
In the House of Lords, 92 semi- incestuous relics remain stranded as a result of Labour’s 1999 compromise. Universally, they are neither wise nor appropriate, symbols of a failed system, rather than (all) being failures themselves. This odd assortment resides pointlessly in an Upper House that numbers over 800 – itself an opaque, mostly rewards-based bureaucracy, spinning out of control. The US, with a population of nearly 320 million, has just 100 senators. The Bundesrat, German’s effective second chamber, has only 69 members. A radically overhauled upper house would see fixed-term tenures shared among real people from society’s frontline.
The voice of real people is certainly not heard in the House of Commons. By latest estimates, a core 20%+ of UK voters is now anti-Europe, anti- immigration and anti-Westminster. UKIP becomes a protest vote, just as the LibDems did before it – a negative response to a long-term trend. An outdated first-past-the- post voting system – which can no longer deliver its own sole purpose of ‘strong government’ – now attempts to squeeze multi-party politics into a two-party straightjacket. The 2015 General Election, with its predictions of stasis, is already being heralded as the ‘car crash election’. Maybe it needs to be. Britain needs to see that the party is over.
David Cameron smirked: “go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up next to Ed Miliband.” The truth is that few of us want to sleep with any of them. The ‘next generation’ of leaders offers little respite: more clones, equally vacant ideas, constant Punch- and-Judy exchanges. New leaders are required from beyond Westminster’s bubble and squeak.
Conservatism bedevils all parties. “Conservatism”, Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention.” The forces of institutional conservatism – from monarchy to parliament – now threaten the democracy of us all.