Peerless house

November 07, 1999

LONG AGO the United Kingdom stripped the House of Lords of authority and power.

A half-century ago, Labor politicians created life peers, who could sit and debate without actually leaving honors or privileges to their posterity.

Now the New Labor government of Tony Blair, worries at the appearance of non-existent inherited power. And so the hereditary right to sit in the House of Lords is being erased.

In the first stage, now enacted, only 92 of the 751 hereditary lords may sit. They must be elected by their (ahem!) peers, from among the 227 self-nominated candidates. Abolishing the last 92 would be up to the next Labor government.

The Lords' power is gone, their hereditary privilege curtailed, and nothing remains but the name. A sexist, classist, aristocratic, anachronistic, inaccurate name.

Why call it a House of Lords? It will not be even a House of Lads or House of Laws, but a House of Presumed Meritocrats of all genders.

The House of Lords is a part of England there will not always be. Yet some essence of England endures. Cricket, for instance. They would never abolish cricket.

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