Refusing the Laurels

There’s a fantastic piece in the Guardian today, by Michael William Coplestone Dillon Onslow is the 7th Earl of Onslow.
In the op-ed piece, he argues in favor of his own extinction, pushing for a mostly democratically elected House of Lords.
But don’t get your hopes up – he’s not going to go quietly into that good night. He’s got his reasons.


Onslow walks in the footsteps of other great men who have taken power they could rightfully have seized, and inexplicably passed it back to the people. He seems to understand that power is wielded properly only by the consent of the governed. George Washington did this; Julius Caesar didn’t — now think about how we rate each man in history’s pantheon.
Onslow is quite upset and reasonably worried that House of Lords reform is being botched, and that if Tony Blair gets his way, the Lairds will be packed with unaccountable appointees – call it Brussels Junior. In Lord Onslow’s inimitable words describing his vision for what the House of Lords ought to be,

There will be no more place for a descendant of someone who got pissed with Pitt the Younger than for a man who once adorned the cabinet in the useless position of secretary of state for prices and consumer protection.

Onslow reminds us that he told Maggie Thatcher that the upper house needed reform, and that she had better do it – otherwise some upstart Labor whippersnapper would come along and make a mess of it. So it has come to pass.
Onslow ideally envisions a House of Lords comprised of 60% elected representatives, 40% appointees. This seems a fair balance. Even here in the U.S., it is fair to argue that the degeneration of our democratic processes stem from the Constitutional amendment allowing for direct election of Senators, our higher house. So maybe having some indirectly “elected” members wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Regardless, hoist a drink tomorrow evening in honor of Lord Winslow. It’s not often a man walks away from power and prestige, and does so willingly, and with charity to the people.
It’s almost enough to make you wonder if there isn’t something to that hereditary system of peerage maybe some inherited leadership ability and noblesse oblige still mean something in our age.

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