On a number of occasions I've made the point that Britain is, at best, a semi-democracy, due to the House of Lords being unelected. Some people react incredulously to that notion, and insist that the power of the Lords is merely to revise and delay - the Commons will always ultimately decide.
But the truth of that statement hangs by one extraordinarily slender thread - namely the Parliament Act, which allows the Commons to overrule the Lords by a cumbersome procedure. Indeed, it's no exaggeration to say that the Parliament Act literally is British democracy - strip it away, and the unelected chamber has unfettered power to thwart the will of the electorate.
Curious, then, to witness the Telegraph's reaction to suggestions that the government may use the Parliament Act to ensure the elected chamber has the final say on gay marriage. Apparently the Parliament Act is a "nuclear option" that is only intended to be used in "exceptional circumstances". Really? That's a bit bloody convenient for the conservative elite of this country, isn't it? The moment the government tries to "enforce" democracy, it's subject to dark mutterings that it's doing so far too often and not selectively enough.
Sorry, guys, but democracy is not supposed to be a special once-a-decade treat. Time to choose - is Britain a democracy, or isn't it? If it is, then by definition the Parliament Act is not a "nuclear option", but an indispensable tool that ought to be used just as often as necessary. And the Lords, not the Commons, decides by its actions how often that is.
It's extraordinary to recall that one of Michael Forsyth's objections to devolution in the 1990s was that the Scottish Parliament's decisions would not be subject to "revision" by unelected Lords. That complaint sounded funny at the time, but it sounds positively unhinged now.
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I also have a new article in the UK edition of the International Business Times, about the significance of welfare reform to the debate on independence. You can read it HERE.