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Roger Warren Evans
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616 3 February 2003
When Tony Blair last week announced his backing for an appointed second Chamber, in a very public Commons aside, Robin Cook went stratospheric. He has been the great advocate of an elected second Chamber. I heard Robin Cook speaking at a London Fabian Conference last Saturday, and he is defiant.
But as a lifelong abolitionist, let me highlight the closing line of Robin Cook's reported reaction, by way of throwaway (although he did not repeat this thought, in his Saturday speech) -
Robin - welcome to the Club! Be a democrat, and allow MPs an Option Eight! Let us give our MPs additional responsibilities, by assigning 150 of them to a new Revising Division of the Commons. They could sit in the old Lords Chamber, which would not be needed for its original purpose..
Editorial Footnote: Subsequently, the "Outright Abolition" Option was voted upon - and attracted 172 Commons votes - a historic roll-call - they are listed here.
617 3 February 2003
Old Dogs, New Tricks
Socialists must re-learn the limits of State power. And we must propose a new international socialist order, consistent with those new perceptions. In large, complex societies, there are certain points at which State power can be exercised effectively, to achieve socialist ends. There are others where it cannot, given overriding principles of human dignity and sovereignty, and the distinctive features of human personality. For example, it has proved impossible to re-distribute wealth through the wage-packet - by any form of mandatory Incomes Policy, or by varying income tax-rates to reduce differentials. Societal propensities for hierarchy and functional differentiation are very powerful - socialists should acknowledge that strength and work around it.
Even the health promotion
agenda is problematical, as it brings the State into areas of
traditional personal privacy. I remain uneasy, for example, by
draconic Government campaign against smoking. There is nothing
socialist about the Government's adherence to "prohibition", in the
misconceived "campaign against drugs". Many attempts to regulate anti-social
behaviour by Court Order have ended in failure. And Ministers' latest
attempts to intervene with University selection processes, to favour
class candidates" are also doomed to fail. The appointment of a Fair Access
Regulator is a silly idea, a mere device to divert attention from the
Socialist objectives should be achieved in other, simpler, ways. And the challenge is to develop new socialist guidelines which will command international acceptance, enjoy international validity. In seeking to reduce inequalities, our primary focus should be on (i) education – (ii) healthcare - (iii) unemployment relief – (iv) state pensions – and (v) a commitment to the underlying equality agenda of the human rights movement.
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