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The House of Lords

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"You only are chosen by the people and therefore in you only is the power of binding the whole nation by making, altering or abolishing of laws. You have therefore prejudiced us in acting so as if you could not make a law without both the royal assent of the king (so you are pleased to express yourselves) and the assent of the Lords".
Richard Overton, A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens, 1646

While British Olympic athletes were honouring their country with gold medals in 2012, its politicians brought shame on their country, using the cover of the Games to keep the hereditary legislators who were to have lost their seats in a new reform of the second chamber of Parliament. So in Britain in the 21st century, hard as it may be to believe, some seats in Parliament will continue to be the private property of the country's "nobility", passed on from generation to generation.

In the UK 92 legislators have inherited their seats in the legislature from a relative. When one of them dies, those that remain elect the replacement from other members of the "aristocracy". These and other House of Lords legislators are immune from the public will. They are legislators until they die.

In the first four years of the 2010 coaltion government led by David Cameron he created 183 of another type of legislator-for-life, otherwise known by the odd name of "life peer". By the end of that coalition in 2015 there were 778 legislators in the House of Lords. This number was made up of 224 Conservative, 213 Labour, 100 Liberal Democrat and 178 independent legislators. None of them represented the people.

By August 2015 the total number of legislators was 826. The only legislative chamber with more is the Chinese National People's Congress.

Among the new legislators appointed by the Conservative government in 2015, not chosen by the people, was James Lupton. He had given £2.8m to the Conservative Party. According to an August 2015 report in the Financial Times "Oxford university researchers recently found that 27 'big donors' had been given peerages since 2005. They said they had no 'cast-iron proof' that peerages had been sold — but said the chances of this being a coincidence was equivalent to winning the National Lottery five times in a row".

In 2010 research by the University College London Constitution Unit showed that 30 per cent of the legislators-for-life at that time were either former politicians or the staff of such politicians. This undercut the frequently given justification for unelected legislators that they bring in a wider range of experience than that found in the democratic chamber of the legislature.

Between 2005 and 2010 two governments were defeated 278 times by the unelected legislators.

Only about 200 attend every day but around 450 can be found in the House on most days. They are paid £300 a day to cover their "expenses". The average age is 70.

The decision of the government to keep the hereditary and other unelected legislators rather than face down the opponents of reform, again critically undercut Britain's claim to be a model of democracy. 350 years after the civil war in which the rights of the Lords were first seriously challenged, the people are still to be treated as serf-like fools, unfit for more than a limited control of their legislature. Laws passed by the elected representatives in the House of Commons will continue to take effect only if the hereditary and other "Lords"approve. The most contemptible of people, those who believe that it is right to accept an hereditary seat, will continue to have a veto over the wishes of the people.

This setback for democracy is the result of the opposition of many Conservative Party MPs, supported by the Labour Party in order to embarrass the governing coalition. Even some Liberal Democrats were unenthusiastic, according to newspaper reports.

"A resting place for fading luminaries that fancies itself as Plato’s Republic made real".
Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times on the UK's "upper" chamber.

The debased values behind the decision were also on display in the Olympic Games opening ceremony. It portrayed the factory owners of the Industrial Revolution negatively but showed no such negativity towards the Windsor family. The factory owners shared the wealth their factories created, although inequitably, and helped make Britain a prosperous nation. The Windsor family has created nothing but has taken millions of pounds from the pockets of the people every year for merely being "royal".

And while some seats in Parliament are the private property of elite famililes, the Parliamentary Oaths Act effectively bars other citizens from sitting in that same legislature even if elected by the people if they believe in the thoroughly democratic tenets of republicanism that are accepted as the norm from the United States of America to the Republic of India. For the Act allows them to take their seat only if they publicly recant their deeply-held beliefs by swearing a feudal oath of allegiance to the Windsor family. Not to the people. Not to a democratic constitution. Not to their country. But to a family. In Iran you cannot stand for election as president if you oppose the the system of Islamic government. In Britain you cannot sit in Parliament if you oppose monarchy - unless you are willing to give up your right to free speech and allow the state to compel you to say what you do not believe.

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