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Assignment: A Mixed Regime

Assignment: A Mixed Regime

Assignment: A Mixed Regime


A Mixed Regime

From the seventeenth century on, the British parliamentary system became a prime example of what Aristotle called a mixed regime, in which different institutions represent different classes. The House of Lords represented the interests of the traditional governing classes, whereas the House of Commons gradually came to represent the interests of the general electorate, expressed through free elections and increasing suffrage.

Great Britain’s mixed regime historically promoted stability by providing representation for classes that otherwise might have become openly hostile toward one another. The famed British welfare state of today is designed to perpetuate a large middle class through an elaborate system of income redistribution. Although the traditional representation of separate social classes has become largely irrelevant, the two major parties—the Conservatives and Labour—continue to retain the distinctions, attitudes, and values of a class-conscious society.

The supreme legislative body is the popularly elected House of Commons (see below), while the aristocratic House of Lords has been reduced to little more than a debating society. The Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 made it impossible for the House of Lords to block legislation passed by the Commons. Today, the Lords can do no more than propose amendments or delay a bill from taking effect for one year.

About eight hundred individuals (including appointed life peers and hereditary peers, plus twenty-five Anglican bishops and archbishops) claim formal membership in the House of Lords, but only about three hundred play an active role.* The British upper house can easily be seen as an anachronism in the modern age, perhaps even a little ridiculous—and not only to outsiders.

A major reform bill to democratize the Lords by drastically reducing its size (to 450) and directly electing 80% of its members was introduced in the House of Commons in 2012. The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, along with some Tory backbenchers, demanded a popular referendum to decide the matter.* But the plan was abandoned after the Conservatives “broke the coalition contract,” according to “Lib Dem” leader Nick Clegg (his Liberal Democrats joined David Cameron’s Conservatives to form a coalition government when no party won a clear majority in the 2010 national elections).

Fusion of Powers