2011 will be a year of constitutional reform
Just as the Conservative Party is having to deal with the economic mess bequeathed (again) by Labour, so too will they begin to grapple with the constitutional dog’s breakfast they inherited.
There will be a referendum on changing the voting system from FPTP to AV. No party proposed it in their manifestos, and almost no-one wants it: it is no more proportionate than FPTP and solves none of the irregularities thrown up by that system. It does not address the disconnect between the electorate and the elected, and neither does it address the crisis in our democracy.
The whole exercise will be a complete waste of money as everyone will be distracted by the Royal Wedding, which is a constitutional development of sorts, providing, as it does, the stable foundation for further royal progeny to inherit the Throne and lead the Church.
The House of Lords cannot be left as it is: having abolished the vast majority of hereditary peers, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown were able to persuade Parliament towards a logical end-game. To leave it as it is would be bizarre, not to say a constitutional outrage: there is simply no rationale for retaining an ‘hereditary element’ when previous reforms were predicated upon the abolition of that principle on democratic grounds.
2011 sees the centenary of the 1911 Parliament Act by which the Liberal Government ended the power of the House of Lords to block the annual budget. The Liberal dimension is not lost on some, so it is conjectured that, having failed to convert the country to AV, and in order to sustain the Coalition, Nick Clegg will be given carte blanche to lead reform of the Upper Chamber.
Whether it is wholly elected (by PR) or some elected/appointed hybrid is sustained will determine the extent of Nick Clegg’s success, and even his continuing position as Liberal Democrat leader, for the hybrid would please neither his backbenchers nor his (rapidly-diminishing) supporters.
The thorny question of bishops in the House of Lords will need to be addressed, and Jim Hacker explains why. Again, Labour began a reform by insisting that the Prime Minister should no longer use the royal prerogative ‘to exercise choice in recommending appointments of senior ecclesiastical posts, including diocesan bishops, to the Queen’. This was one of the most significant (though underreported) changes to the relationship between Church and State for generations. Now the Church’s Crown Nominations Commission proposes just one name to the Prime Minister, who then conveys that recommendation to the Queen.
That, in itself, was a step towards disestablishment, which (atheist) Nick Clegg will be keen to build upon: he finds it unacceptable that the Church of England alone should be privileged to have 26 representatives in the Upper House. He wants all faiths represented (doubtless disproportionately), and unless there is some further fudge, this will lead to an almighty constitutional row involving even the Supreme Governor, for the privilege of the Bishops to sit in the Legislature is inherently part of the Establishment settlement, which she swore at her Coronation to preserve and sustain.
Will A Conservative-led coalition really move to disestablish the Church of England?
For if the Bishops be ejected from the Lords, why should the Head of State continue to be Supreme Governor of the Church of England?
There will be other constitutional tinkering, but the House of Lords and Church of England will be quite enough for the Coalition to chew on over the next year.
His Grace will now turn to his (metaphorical) crystal ball and make a few predictions for 2011:
The Coalition will survive, despite a LibDem meltdown in May.
There will be more wars and rumours of war, especially in North/South Korea.
Israel will continue to be portrayed as a pariah state.
There will be terrorist atrocities.
Taxes will rise, people will die.
Jesus will not return, so the Coalition can't dump the Government upon His shoulder.
This last prediction His Grace makes with a high degree of certainty, for there is no sign (yet) of the Tribulation or Rapture, even though the Antichrist is undoubtedly skulking around. There is a slight disclaimer on this prediction, for His Grace is not infallible. But it seems to him that 2011 is a fairly innocuous number which does not draw people to gather under the sky dressed in their Sunday best carrying their Bibles. The number 11 does not equal ‘atonement’ (that is 5), and 20 does not equal ‘completeness’ (that is 10). 2011 does not mean heaven (that is 17), and since Christ was executed on 1st April 33, the interval from that date to 2011 is exactly 1,978 years. If you multiply 1,978 by 365.2422 days (the average number of days in each solar year), you get 722,449 days. Add then an arbitrary 51 days we get the total days since Jesus' execution to 722,500. Now this means the Second Coming will not occur any time during 2011. Further, (5x10x17) x (5x10x17) = 722,500, which is (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven) squared. Unfortunately, the date of Jesus' execution by the Roman occupation army is not precisely known, though it was almost certainly between 29 to 33. If you take the cube root of the year of his death (cubed because he was a Trinity), and multiply it by the years his successor (Elizabeth II) has occupied the Throne of David (Stone of Destiny), you don’t get 2011.
His Grace wishes all of his readers and communicants a happy and blessed New Year.