Bishops panic at the prospect of being chucked out of the Lords

NSS Newsline - June 26, 2009
mardi 7 juillet 2009
popularité : 100%

Church of England bishops are becoming restive at the prospect that the Government might recommend a wholly elected House of Lords (a Senate as it would be). There would be no place for ex-officio religious representatives in such a body – or ex-officio anyone else, come to that.

The Bishop of Liverpool said he preferred the 80% elected option which, of course, would leave room for the bishops to remain, albeit in reduced numbers. He said he could "see merit in appointed bodies, providing that the processes are transparent and accountable."

He said in a House of Lords debate : "Please do not get me wrong – I respect the political class and not even in the present climate would I dare to rubbish it. However it is too narrow a constituency to produce what is needed, especially in this House for a revising and legislating assembly. We need to recover the unity of Parliament in the constitutional debate – two Houses but one Parliament : A Commons that is elected with the authority of having the last word, and a revising chamber to advise, revise and refine legislation. Such a revising chamber should be made up of what could be called the elders of our society : men and women experienced in different walks of life, who, from their experience and wisdom can shape the laws that govern our common life. Such people cannot be restricted to the political class..."

The bishop speaks of the "wise elders", but some of the bishops who infest the Church of England are just plain barmy. Until his recent retirement, the former Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, made public pronouncements that would have had ordinary people committed. You will remember he was the man who said that it was the toleration of homosexuals that caused the floods that so damaged Carlisle two years ago. He was also an expert on exorcism and remarked in his book on the subject that "There is a view that both oral and anal sexual practice is liable to allow entry to spirits."

Whatever the skills and knowledge of the bishops, they should sit in the House of Lords on their merits, not because of their religion. They should prove to the electorate that they deserve to be there and will bring something other than superstition to the debate.

While they are permitted to sit there without question, we could get more crackpots of the Carlisle variety.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Durham criticised plans to "rush through" constitutional changes. He said that it was a "Trojan horse" to distract attention from other ills. He then made the case for his being in Parliament with nobody’s consent. "Legitimacy does not just arise from having people vote for you. Legitimacy is also sustained by doing the job and being trusted. Public consent and approval can come through the ballot box or in other ways... The belief that only elected members can have any sort of legitimacy, or that once someone has won a vote it gives them carte blanche to do whatever they like for the next five years, rings extremely hollow... The suggestion that we should solve our problems by electing more people like that to replace the widely experienced specialists on these benches shows how out of touch some people are with the real problems."

What the Bishop fails to mention is that elected representatives can (and will be) booted out if they fail to come up to scratch. How do we get rid of barmy or bigoted bishops ?

Naturally the bishops won’t be voting for their own excision from the legislative process, any more than a Turkey will be voting... etc. But if they won’t accept democracy with the "grace" they are always jabbering on about, then they’ll just have to receive the order of the boot, like all the others still there through inheritance rather than the will of the people.


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