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Weasel words and pixie dust.

THE POLITICAL LEXICON is replete with words that act like air raid sirens on the jaded and cynical mind, arousing emotions of unpleasant apprehension and sullen anger. Diversity, fairness, equality, multiculturalism, access, community, sustainability, anything with “social” stuck in front of it  – they’re all guaranteed to get me shouting at the television or throwing the newspaper to the floor. That’s because they’re weasel words, shifty, lying and duplicitous. “Modernise” is one of them.

Hence my annoyance when some pontificating clown was talking on TV about “modernising” the House of Lords, smirking at his own zeitgeistiness that since this is now the twenty-first century we ought to have a democratic, ie elected, second chamber because that would be modern. And yes, it was a Liberal Democrat.

When someone says they want to modernise something what they really mean is they want to change it to suit their own prejudices. To “modernise”, however, adds an extra glitter and shine of newness that “change” doesn’t have. It’s close enough to “revolutionary” to cause a tingle but not so close as to induce vertigo. It makes the utterer sound emotionally as well as intellectually up-to-date. It indicates a step change, such as upgrading from an ancient bakelite radiogram to an MP3 player (but you can see the problem right there, can’t you?).

Tony Blair famously modernised the Labour Party and David Cameron is less famously doing the same to the Conservatives. The result of their modernising has been to produce slightly different versions of the same party, both wedded to increasing state interference through bossy progressivism, both subsumed in the undemocratic behemoth of the European Union, both incapable of paying the least bit of attention to the people.

The Liberal Democrats have found themselves inserted between the other two parties as a junior version of the same. Desperate to leave a legacy (another weasel word) after decades of political irrelevance, they’ve sprinkled their policies with the glittering Pixie Dust of modernisation. When I say policies I mean policy – for they only have one – constitutional reform. The results so far have been disastrous. The Pixie Dust has failed to work. Their attempt to introduce an alternative voting system was soundly kicked to death by the electorate and the move to scupper the House of Lords has just been tripped over and rolled into a canal.

The House of Lords does need to have changes made to it. The number of lords should be limited, for instance, and the choosing of members should be changed to lessen the ability of Prime Ministers to annoint their favourites – especially when they then parachute them into cabinet.

But change alone would not satisfy the Liberal Democratic desire for modernisation. What they actually want is the destruction of the House of Lords, and for it to replaced by another chamber of clowns, like themselves. Then we’d all be properly modern and perhaps call it a Senate – that’s more republican, less old-fashioned and antiquatedly British, more American – and America, we know, is the Land of Hope and Change Pixie Dust Magic.

How the LibDems would love to go down in political history as the party that radically changed the British constitution. Underlying the ideological cant of their specious modernity lies the atavistic desire for a monument. What has been accreted over centuries, imperfect as it is, should not be torn down to satisfy the vanity of clowns.

– Michael Blackburn.


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