February 2, 2009

Tradition Busting at the House of Lords

So there's a plan afoot to reform the British House of Lords by ousting members convicted of felonies:

"A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: 'In the House of Commons, if you break the criminal law or, for example, it's found that although you haven't broken the criminal law you've been doing something completely improper then the House of Commons can, in extremis, expell you. We're saying that most apply, too, to the House of Lords also."

--Julia Belluz, London Feb 2 '09
(Special to the Globe and Mail)

Dangerous, precedent-shattering idea! Pretty much violates every tradition on which the House of Lords is founded. Those Nobles who don't owe their titles and estates to appropriations from the looting and sacking of monasteries in Henry VIII's time owe it to the pillage and plunder of an entire nation by William the Waster (Alasdair Gray's more apt name for the king usually styled William the Conqueror); or to some lesser episode in the gleefully kleptomanic history of the nobly armed and wealthy. True, there are titled families that have kept their noses clean since, sometimes for as much as a century at a time, and they're to be commended for the fresh spirit of innovation they embody. The trouble is these titles are hereditary. Strip a fourteenth, seventeenth or nineteenth century Lord of title for crimes against humanity, you've pretty much stripped the current Lord of the same title. What to do with a House of Parliament suddenly bereft of Members? Make a jazzy site for a commercial mall. Dibs on the Starbucks site eh?

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