Peter Worthington has had an amazing life. And his obituary, which he wrote himself, certainly has an arresting opening line.
Taken from my blog, www.jemcollins.wordpress.com
I've always thought that communism is a nice idea in theory, I mean what's not to like about a classless, moneyless system where everyone is equal and we all get along just dandy? But communism is one of those things which instantly opens up a massive can of worms when you actually start to think about it, both logistically and as an ideology. How, for example, do you operate a classless system without anyone at the top to regulate it all? And what exactly are the repercussions of creating a society where you're destined to a life of mediocrity with no chance of greatness?
The idea of reforming the House of Lords reminds me of the naïve and idealistic nature of communism; Nick Clegg throws around a few lofty ideas about democracy and the mandate to govern and the public nods along in an "I-couldn't-really-give-two-monkeys-but-you-sound-right" fashion and then continue on to think about the fifty million odd more important problems Britain is facing right now.
Let's be honest here; when was the last time you woke up in a cold sweat worrying that peers are not elected? The answer is most definitely never. It's easy to understand why Clegg is keen to push at least one of his parties policies through government after spending the past two years propping up Conservative policies and endlessly betraying the Liberals' own supposed values, but clutching at ideologically based reforms will neither reinvigorate and engage voters or gain support in Westminster.
People simply just don't care about reforming the lords, just like they didn't really care about the alternative vote. The idea of a "broken parliamentary system" exists merely in the minds Liberal Democrat MPs and it's frustratingly easy to pick holes in the proposals. How, for example, does Nick Clegg plan to tackle the massive voter disengagement seen at the last council elections? A turnout of 33% hardly warrants a mandate to govern. And what of the notion that his reforms threaten to change the very role of the house as a legislative and revising chamber? With the sense of increased legitimacy promised from the reforms comes an elevated sense of power, as well as the shackles of toeing the party line and the virtual eradication of independent crossbenchers. Some would even go as far to say the cons outweigh the pros in this case.
Even ignoring such fundamental flaws in the proposals themselves, Clegg's most damming misgiving is a lack of perspective. In a tide of swinging cuts and austerity measures even the Tories understand that simultaneously throwing thousands of pounds at ideological reforms and salaries for peers is going to make them look horrendously out of touch. Clegg may whine that it's the Tories' duty to support them in the coalition after their own support for their plans but politics is more than just a blind game of give and take, it's about the reasoned discussion of the merits of a proposal. Perhaps he should of thought of that before he agreed to support everything the Conservatives have said.