July 2, 1999 16:28

LOOKING FOR A NEW ENGLAND

Doesn't get his [b]Manics[/b] debate but takes on [b]Blair[/b] and co instead

LOOKING FOR A NEW ENGLAND
Billy Bragg took on the Government last week (July 27) in a bid to change the British constitution and reform the House Of Lords.

The left-wing singer met with the Royal Commission at the Houses Of Parliament who are investigating ways to change the way that the Upper House is formed.

The Commission, comprising of public figures including Lord Douglas Hurd and the Bishop Of Oxford, was set up as part of the Labour Party's election pledge to ditch the right of hereditary peers to vote in the house and thereby have a say in the way that the country is run.

Billy wants all peers in the House to be a democratic representation of how the British public voted, and not simply there because they inherited the title from their fathers to become a "toothless talking shop for the rich illegitimate", as he described it.

He told nme.com: "My suggestion is that you take the results from the General Election, the first past the post way of voting, then you tally every single vote cast for every single party then redistribute the votes proportionally."

As no Government this century has ever won power with more than 50% of the nation's vote, this would mean that the House Of Lords would always be an opposing power with more chance of stopping legislation coming from the House Of Commons that was not in the general interest of the British voting public.

If the Lords had been formed like this in the Eighties, he said, unpopular legislation such as the Poll Tax, which caused riots in the country, would never have been made law.

Billy gave a presentation of his ideas for half and hour then was grilled for 20 minutes by the panel.

"Anyone who sits in the House Of Lords has to get there through the ballot box. It has to be an expression of the democratic will of the British people. That was my main point," he said.

He added that taking part in the Royal Commission's public consultation was something anybody could do, but he felt it was one of the most worthwhile things he'd ever done.

"Whether they take any notice of me or not I don't know, but this is my truth," he said, cheekily referring to his ongoing feud with the Manic Street Preachers, sparked by their use of a private loo at Glastonbury Festival, who he is accusing of losing their left-wing ideals.

"If I had a choice between having a number one single and helping to write the constitution of this country, I'd chose the second option every time," he concluded.

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