A quick demonstration of how Nick Clegg has utterly lost his way. His long-promised House of Lords reform isn’t going to be anything of the sort:
The Government’s proposal to retain 12 reserved seats for Church of England Bishops would actually mean an increase proportionately of the presence of Bishops in the House of Lords. Keeping any reserved seats for the Bishops would be an affront to democracy and antithetical to the aims of a fairer and more egalitarian parliament, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has claimed.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg set out the Government’s plans in a statement to the House of Commons from 15.30 on Tuesday 17 May. The Government’s proposals include a significant reduction in membership of the chamber, from nearly 800 at present to 300, and between 80-100% elected and the remaining appointed. At present, 26 Bishops of the Church of England are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as of right; the only such example of clergy holding automatic membership of a legislature in a modern democracy.
Under current arrangements, Bishops make up 3% of the House of Lords. Under the Government’s proposals that would increase to 4%. Reducing the number of reserved seats for Bishops from 26 to 12 would actually increase their presence proportionately in the chamber.
This is palpably absurd. The Bishops represent the views of unaccountable organised religion and haven’t been voted for by anyone. They are an appalling anachronism in what now, more than ever, needs to be a modern parliament, bent on ever better representation and not privilege. The Bishops should not be there at all. It’s a good thing that the Deputy Prime Minister wants to transform the upper chamber into an elected body, but retaining an increased undemocratic element can’t be allowed to happen. I saw the word ‘religiophobe’ used on Twitter yesterday, and an even better definition:
Religiophobe: One who strives for the elimination of religious privilege in government and public service.
I couldn’t agree more. That’s a badge I’d wear with pride.
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