Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Why can't democracy in Britain be a place for old men ?

The equivalent of the 'undemocratic' House of Lords in the American system of government is the 'democratically' elected Senate.

The 'unelected' members of the House of Lords do exercise real power. They spend 60% of their time discussing new laws and can delay the passing of these for one year if they choose. They spend the other 40% of their time questioning the Government and debating issues and policy.

In the year 2000 there were 688 members of the House of Lords and 55% of them were over the age of 65 and I have no reason to doubt that the figures are similar today.

So, it is pleasing to note that older men and women do play an important role in Britain today. They have a say in making the laws which bind us all. This is good, a recognition the age and experience do count. The great irony, however, is that we didn't choose them, which is not good. The vast majority were appointed by the Queen on the advice of the then Prime Minister. The fact is, that if we had chosen them, we probably would have gone for younger representatives -witness the fact the members of the House of Commons, who we do choose, have an average age of 52.

I conclude that old age and democracy in Britain today are 'apparently' incompatible and evidence would suggest that can't have a fairer system of government and a recognition of the contribution of age at the same time - but wouldn't it be worth a try ? After all, the 'average' age of U.S. senators is 62 !

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