Harry Potter and the prisoner of biological variations.

If you are one of the exclusive few that hasn’t watched or read the story of Harry Potter, this article may be harder to follow. However, the brief explanation below should explain the individual elements which are necessary to understand this piece, and should make things clearer.

Within the Harry Potter world, there is the school Hogwarts. Famed for its academic credibility in the teaching of witchcraft and wizardry. Within this school, the students are divided into four “Houses”, each with their own set of distinct differences and characteristics. These houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin; each named after famous wizards and witches from the Harry Potter universe. The House Gryffindor was famed for bravery, courage, and strength. Hufflepuff for hard work, perseverance and loyalty. Ravenclaw on intelligence, mental ability, and wisdom. Slytherin for cunning, for power, and nobility.

Students, when first attending the school, are sorted into these different houses by a magical talking hat; the Sorting Hat. And in these Houses they remain for the duration of their lives. Each of these Houses has different attributes, and each attribute has different benefits and drawbacks. Certain Houses are famed for certain characteristics and prospects are widely determined based on the Houses students are in.

In a rather informal, but conclusive, manner, a twitter poll was run asking four distinct questions. The first two being very much so linked. When the twitter sphere was asked “Out of the Harry Potter Houses, a member of which house do you think would be the most successful in the workplace?”, the highest voted House, with a total of 48% of the vote was Ravenclaw, followed by Slytherin on 27%. In last place came Hufflepuff, on 11% of the vote. Thus, people deem the House of Hufflepuff to be the least likely to accrue success.

Furthermore, when asked the question “A member of which house would be the least successful?”, a similar story unfolded. A grand total of zero votes, 0%, of all respondents voted that Ravenclaw would be the least successful. Echoing the results from prior poll. 53% of people voted that Hufflepuff would be the least successful, with Gryffindor on 21% and Slytherin on 26%.

From the books, people therefore thought that the House of Hufflepuff would be less likely to achieve well in the real world. Any logical or rational person can see why though. The people in the House of Hufflepuff possess different traits; perhaps less desirable traits. Perseverance and loyalty, although admirable and beneficial, does not a person who excels make. When compared to traits such as cunning, or bravery, or intelligence, the ability to continue plodding along at a certain task with perseverance seems logical that these characteristics are less desirable in environments that specifically require high levels of competency. Additionally, traits such as loyalty and friendliness correlate to a psychological trait known as agreeableness. People with high levels of agreeableness are shown in the workplace to be less successful, and to earn less than their counterparts. Assuming these assumptions are accurate, and that traits that are possessed by the members of the House Hufflepuff, it would be logical to realise that the theoretical success of House members is determined by specific psychology attributes and traits.

The black and white argument, which would surely be illogical, is to assume that someone who is part of Hufflepuff, is less successful because they are in Hufflepuff. That their success is predicated not by their individual and independent attributes, but by some collective notion that specific House membership determines the course for the individual. This view is dangerous. It assumes that because someone is a part of some group, they are therefore necessarily less capable, rather than allowing all individuals to be treated based on their own merits and own abilities.

The general theme so far of this piece may seem absurd. For what reason does Harry Potter and their systems of Houses fit at all into the real world? In general, this analogy can be used to describe the problems of gender, of the gender pay gap, and of disparities of genders in certain career pathways. Empirically, factually, and scientifically, men and women possess different psychology attributes. We have labelled them is society as “masculine” or “feminine” based on which gender is more or less likely to have these features, although this notion should be rejected. It is equally possible, although less likely, for a woman to possess the same psychological traits as men. Whether it is openness and lateral thinking, industriousness, agreeableness, neuroticism or some other mental trait. Each psychological characteristic exists not in black and white, but on a scale, you can be more or less neurotic than others, for example, and in terms of research, different levels of different personality characteristics correlates to success in the workplace.

The danger we have as society is assuming that because someone is a women they are less capable than a man. Whilst women on the whole tend to possess traits that deem them less attractive in areas of high stress and competency, this does not mean for one second that a women may not be capable of the job at hand. Women in high competency or high stress jobs will often have lower levels of agreeableness, higher levels of industriousness, than fellow counterparts. But similarly, men in high competency positions and high stress positions will equally have higher levels of the traits which empirically show higher aptitudes. The conflation that characteristics are purely male vs. female, or masculine vs. feminine is wrong. It is equally plausible for both men and women to have the same traits, and thus the levels of success in these individuals will roughly correlate. Men and women who have equal traits will be in equal positions and likely have equal pay (within a margin). In a pluralistic society, in a free, equal society, people who are equal will achieve equal degrees of success.

If we want to ensure that women are more successful, traits such as industriousness must be encouraged, and agreeableness discouraged. However the argument comes down to how much these traits are determined by genetics. Much like with IQ, training and environmental factors will likely be able to increase or decrease IQ by say up to 10 or 20 points either side. However someone who genetically is predisposed to an IQ of 100 will never reach parity with someone who is predisposed to an IQ of 140, and just as education, training, and psychotherapy can allow women to reach their full potential, this may never, due to biological reasons, allow them to exceed that of “males”, as an aggregate of the collective group.

The blame for this, by many, has been placed on the nature of the capitalistic society. This cut throat, competitive, dog-eat-dog system. But to argue “what if the system was different?” or “what if this was not the case?” is illogical in any real scope of questioning. It is not about what the world could be in an abject utopia, but about where the world is, what we want it to be, and how we enable it to get there. Trying to use the powers of the state to mandate equality of outcome, when it is physically impossible for that to ever be the case, only acts to the detriment of society. The liberal movement, for it to be truly accepting and competent, needs to look at science, it needs to look at empirical data and results, and use this information to mold the world into the shape it can be within the scope of reality.

Just as saying that someone is worse off because they were put into the House of Hufflepuff is sorely illogical, saying that someone is less capable is predicated from the fact they are a woman is false. They are less capable due to the psychological traits they are more likely to possess, and these are universally variable across the species.

In fact, different physical traits are correlated to differing mental traits. For example, someone who is tall, is more likely to have a higher IQ. This is due to the way that our genome is coded. Our genome exists of around ten million of what are called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short. Thousands of these SNPs correlate to different physical traits, and there is assumed to be an overlap between the formation of these SNPs. The Manhattan Plot is a way of measuring hundreds of thousands of SNPs, and with the data we have today there is a clear correlation between the possession of different SNP groupings and different traits. Therefore it is entirely possible to assume that the genome of different people will indicate success in the work place, and thus the differences between the genetic structure of men and women will determine to what degree success is reached.

To conclude, a piece of food for thought: it has been shown that the number of differences between the sexes, including psychological differences and differences in terms of jobs and wages, are far larger in countries which are more gender egalitarian. There is no sociological factor that is forcing men and women to be different. In nations where people are more free to follow which paths they choose, men and women are more likely to tend towards different pathways. The actions by the modern feminist or egalitarian movements actually seek to reduce the freedoms of women by forcing them to go into positions or careers they otherwise would not seek to choose. This is a disgrace, this is illiberal, and it will only seek to hurt individual members of society.


A critique and approach to fundamental political discourse.

The fundamental flaw in the political sciences is the necessity for those within to try to ascribe a level of objective truth to a field where there lacks an objective realism. Political statements are but statements of objectives, and a display that the one who issues them understands, or, in fact, does not, the models for which the political sphere functions within the realm of our observability. In stating that implementing policy A would be “beneficial” one acknowledges therefore that implementing policy A would deter, to an extent, problem B. But to what end does this “beneficial” predicate hold true? To whom does this subjective level indicate a preferential movement? Political language like this is meaningless, in that it offers no universally accepted description to those who hear it. Each individual possesses an idea of which ideals they wish to see reached; these aims and objectives differ substantially between individuals, yet political language, because of the nature of electability, provides a necessity to appeal to, at least, the majority of individual’s own sense of “progress”. Political statements can posit that a policy reaches an aim, without stating what that aim is, and the subjective degree to which the individual interprets such statements within their own frame of subjective reality, thus attributes its supposed beneficial nature to their own political model construct. To further elucidate one’s political sentiments one must remove the intended vagueness that allows the perquisite of the audience to subjectively interpret each political objective. And thus it must be in the nature of political analysis to describe the fluctuations between intended goals of political statements and the meaningless platitudes they offer to the ears of the listener.

When a political statement, “A is beneficial”, is made what the argument entails is that to do A, furthers us towards aim C, and that aim C is obstructed by problem B. Therefore by implementing A, problem B disappears and thus cannot obstruct aim C. But by saying “A is beneficial” to an unprepared and bewildered listener one omits even what B, or C, is. However the sale of such original statement omits the fact that the aims of individuals will be different. Why “A is beneficial” to the audience posits deeper analysis, prior to its publication. It also calls into question two further fundamental areas. To the audience, A cannot be said to be beneficial if, firstly, the audience doesn’t consider B to be a problem, and secondly, the audience fails to consider C to be the aim. This is far prior to any insight into whether solution A would even begin to act as a catalyst to ensure that the so called problem B is lessened. So, to sum up, for the statement “A is beneficial” to be true, the audience all must accept the aim C, they must consider B to be a problem, and objective A must act as a catalyst to remove the problem stated. Considering the areas of problems that can be raised in such political discourse, using such a statement to a broad spectrum of listeners and followers is likely to achieve little. Yet, the lack of meaningful discourse analysis and subsequent language reflection allows a psychological variation between individuals based on them fitting an inconsistent objective into a subjective mental framework, thus allowing the statement to appeal to their own subjective model despite no such occurrence happening. When a political figure tells you that a policy is beneficial, one must question to whom?
“What aims do I possess?”
“Does this policy establish a viable route to my higher aims being accomplished?”
“Does the problem being countered exist in any meaningful way? ” (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).

Only after these three questions have been answered can you independently verify the statement “A is beneficial”, however, it is still meaningless because your neighbour will almost certainly object on one level or another. The onus on doing so, for analysing these statements, should be on us; those capable of comprehending the complexities and nature of political discourse. Those who understand the necessary nature of empirical argumentation, of philosophical theory, of progress, because those who seek election can not, will not, change how they act, for it is in their interest to act in that way; the bulk of the public have far more important aspects of life to worry about than analysing the ins and outs of political statements. It is us, the politicos, the writers, the journalists, the academics, the students and the altruists, who must contribute to this dialectic in a way which creates a palatable and digestible account of reality and political statements, and in doing so, provide a empirical backbone to an environment that lacks any verisimilitude.

Don’t be stupid; Oxbridge isn’t racist.

Oxford and Cambridge are two of the highest rated academic institutions on the planet, and evidently the practices within these bodies themselves are ensuring that such high standards are maintained. Levels of pupils from minority backgrounds declining in entry from the colleges is not an indictment of the universities, but an indictment of the access to opportunities available to pupils from worse off backgrounds in general. Entry to these universities depends on a varying number of factors, most importantly the combination of adequate grades and the commitment of application to these universities in the first place. In 2013, the number of applications to Oxford from the South East and London totalled 5119, with 1271 of those applicants successfully being accepted; a total application to acceptance rate of 23.0%. On the contrary, the number of students applying to Oxford from the North West was 1026, with only 192 students being granted acceptance. An acceptance rate of 18.7%.

The South East and Greater London’s rate of applicants as a percentage of the population was 0.03%, in the North West, the percentage of pupil applications as a percentage of the population was 0.015%. You were twice as likely to make an application to Oxford if you lived in the South East or Greater London compared to living in the North West. If you were an Oxford applicant from the North East you were among 0.009% of the population to apply there, three times less likely to make an application than from the South East and London.

But why this is, is the general conundrum, and can comprise of many varying factors. For a start, geographical proximity to such universities could play a part. “The figures show that Surrey alone sent almost as many of its residents to study at Cambridge and Oxford last year as Wales and the north-east of England combined”. The percentage of applications to Oxbridge from Surrey in relation to the county’s population is 0.078%, compared to 0.020% from the North East and Wales. It is not shocking to see that those who live close to an educational institution favour such institutions in their applications, and the ability to travel for students is definitely a limiting factor in regard to opportunity, and thus it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people from across the nation have access to adequate public transport, and thus greater opportunities.

A second reason why there is this disparity could be attributed to general regional differences in educational quality. 903,000 pupils in 2013 in the South East attended a school ranked by Ofsted as good or outstanding, marking 77% of the population. In terms of the proportion of students, of secondary schools in the South East, 21% of students are in schools listed as inadequate or requiring improvement. In comparison, in the North East, Yorkshire, and Humber, of secondary schools, 33% of pupils are in schools ranked inadequate or requiring improvement. A difference of 12%. However, this is a reasonably historic set of data, over recent years the academic prowess of the North East has been on the change. “Nearly a quarter – 23.3% – of grades in the region were As or A*s, up 1.2% compared to last year, the second-highest rise in the country.” With a rise in grades A*-B increasing 3.9% from 2012-2017. The region’s A-level pass rate stood at the joint-highest in the country alongside the North West, yet despite this, the number of students in the region applying to universities remains the lowest in the country. So despite increasing academic performance, and a general upward trend in levels of attainment in A Levels, fewer pupils are applying to university than from other regions.

This leads to a third possible factor, because despite high pass rates in regions such as the North West and North East, application rates to universities remain the lowest in the country. Socio-economic standing and poverty rates in these regions are far higher than those in areas compared to other regions in the UK. As of October 2017, the unemployment rate in the North East is the highest in the country, currently residing at 5.8%, in comparison to 3.3% in the South East. Rates of poverty for 2013/14 in the North East, defined as the proportion of people living in households with an income below 60% of the contemporary median household, is at 22%, compared to 18% in the South East, which doesn’t necessarily indicate a significant margin, however looking back 1998/9, rates of poverty in the North East stood at 29%, compared to 19% in the South East. So whilst poverty in the South East has decreased by 1% over the timespan recorded, the rates of poverty in the North East has decreased by 32%, perhaps leading to an endemic reluctance to apply for a place at a university due to such historical socio-economic disparities. In recent years half of students starting university have become first in their family to do so, however, this also matches a trend in which pupils are applying less on a national level to university. With government targets seeking to see 50% of all people attend a university, the value of a degree is shrinking, and with the government policy in relation to loans being manipulated by universities themselves, many from poorer backgrounds with lower grades are seeing themselves indebted to a university on a course which will not provide them with the necessary income or see their full potential as pupils realised. 60% of new graduates are in non-graduate jobs, with levels from poorer students being higher than this. A Sutton Trust poll from this year showed that 14% of the 2,600 students they questioned stated that they were unlikely to attend university, up from 8% in 2012. With a university degree giving a decreasing competitive edge within the job market, and the burden of student loans and maintenance held by students, it is not so hard to believe that fewer people will be interested in attending university, over gaining meaningful experience in employment.

Looking at the opening point in regards to low levels of BME students at top universities correlates with socioeconomic trends as well. Around two-fifths of people from ethnic minorities live in low-income households, twice the rate for white people. When there is a greater need to work and survive, there is less effort often put into academia. A lack of opportunity and alternative routes into university for those who are intelligent and skilled, but do not necessarily have the grades to get into a decent university is slowly condemning those from more impoverished backgrounds to a life where their full potential is not being fulfilled. This is not only a disgrace to such individuals, but also an economic burden on the UK, as those with worthwhile degrees from relevant institutions will over their lives contribute more to the treasury, lift thousands out of poverty, and provide a higher quality of life for those who are capable of doing far more but of whom are forced due to poverty to remain to sustain themselves and their families.

Going back to the point on geography, and the final revealing picture comes into view as to why there are such stark regional differences. In the North West and North East combined, according to The Complete University Guide, a total of 9 universities have been ranked, since they began recording data, as being within the top ten of their subject league tables. This is a total of just over 1 top ten university for every 1000 sq. miles. In the South East and London, there are 28 universities which have appeared in the top ten of the subject league table, coming to a total of 3.5 top ten universities for every 1000 sq. miles. People residing in areas with better access to local universities are more likely to go to university. People who have to travel a smaller distance to attend a university, are more likely to go to university. Worse access to public transport, differing trends in socioeconomic standing among regions, and depreciating values of degrees within the UK are the major factors causing rates of university applications from certain subsections in society to fall. Oxbridge universities aren’t necessarily racist or classist, the figures do not show that these colleges aren’t willing to take people on because of where they come from or the colour of their skin, but the trend we can see shows that society is failing those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a lack of fluidity between the classes, and equal opportunity for all causes a staunch divide where bright children from poor backgrounds do not achieve the pinnacle of what they should be able to, and the country is worse off for it.

Could lab-grown meat save the human race?

To many, the concept of manufacturing meat seems like a new phenomenon, with advances in genetic science, cloning, and general biology, however, it has a rather in-depth history. The first landmark experiment leading to the development of in vitro meat is the 1912 experiment performed by Alexis Carrel. In these experimentations, Carrel took tissue culture from an embryonic chicken heart, and used a mechanism of structuring and providing this culture with the necessary nutrients for continued growth, thus aiming to prove that living cells could survive indefinitely under the right conditions. Whilst the results of his experiments were anomalous and were never successfully repeated, it was the first such use of what the modern, cultured meat, science would use.

Moving forward towards the first citing of the theoretical possibilities of utilising such technology for the creation of meat for human consumption, one rather famous Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, wrote that “The great mass of human beings, absorbed in the toils, cares and activities of life, are only dimly conscious of the pace at which mankind has begun to travel”. This is the first sentence of Churchill’s 1931 article “Fifty Years Hence”, which is an extraordinary read for those who have not yet considered it. In the piece, Churchill discusses his predictions and prophecies for the next fifty years, and although Churchill is perhaps a tad optimistic at times, it provides an accurate prediction overall for developments such as nuclear science and cloning. In one paragraph, Churchill writes that “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”, and thus the theory of in vitro meat was set in motion.

A time travelling Winston Churchill wielding a lab-grown chicken drumstick in the year 2067

Not quite fifty years hence, but a mere eighty-two years later, the first public trial of lab-grown meat for human consumption was broadcast to the world. In 2013, a group of three food critics tested, on live television, the quality of lab-grown meat. At that time the cost of one lab-grown burger was around £250,000. However, since then, the costs have plummeted. Peter Verstrate, the head of Mosa Meats, a company which is planning to mass commercialise cultured meats, stated in April 2015, that he was confident that the commercialisation of lab-grown meat will happen within five years – and he is likely to be correct. Since the 2013 test, the cost of one burger has fallen from that £250,000 price tag to a mere ~£8 per piece.

With an ever-growing demand for meat from developing countries, and the mounting environmental concerns around the practice of producing and sustaining the current agricultural industry, lab-grown meat is a welcome and positive story that can, and no doubt will revolutionise the food industry. The cost of meat could be at an all-time low as the technology develops, including a wide variety of beneficial health implications.

Now let us focus on the science behind the meat. In current procedures, scientists biopsy stem or satellite muscle cells from a group of general muscle cells taken from the animal of choice. The cells taken are responsible for repairing the muscle in the donor animal. These cells are then immersed in a nutrient rich medium which encourages their potentially indefinite growth. To put this growth into context, there can be a few hundred muscle repair cells from just a few strands of muscle tissue, estimates from scientists have suggested that from as few as 10 of these cells we could, under the maximum ideal conditions, produce 50 tonnes of meat.

Next comes an area which scientists have not yet fully mastered; lab-grown cells, much like naturally grown cells, need exercise and general wear and tear to form the same texture as “actual” meat. Another problem for scientists comes in the structuring of the growth of cells. So far, it has proven difficult to structure the lab-grown cells in such a way that they produce any three-dimensional form of structure. Mainly the procedure creates a thin layer of grown cells, which can be removed and turned into what is essentially a minced meat type substance. To produce a fully formed chicken breast or steak, it would require far more development, but nothing is beyond reach. The main issue is that this common procedure produces only muscle, there is yet to be a method developed to simultaneously grow different cell types (blood, fat, muscle etc) in a natural pattern. However, once these, and a few other obstacles have been overcome, lab-grown meat production could create meat which has an identical likeness to naturally grown meat.

The latest Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) figures suggest that the agricultural industry produces around 14.5% of all total greenhouse gas emissions, greater than the entire release of emissions from global transport. Whilst the FAO has stated that emissions from the agricultural industry can, with the right implementation of waste reductions and energy saving techniques, be reduced by a third, it does not make an overall difference due to the increasing demand for meat and animal products. By the year 2050, it is estimated that the demand for meat and milk will increase 70%. Duncan Williamson, the corporate stewardship manager at WWF-UK, has stated that “Around 30% of global biodiversity loss can be attributed to livestock production”. According to the WWF “The net loss in global forest area during the 1990s was about 94 million ha (equivalent to 2.4% of total forests). It is estimated that in the 1990s, almost 70% of deforested areas were converted to agricultural land.” Regardless of one’s political position, it is difficult to comprehend the vast scale of the damage caused by the meat industry, and the potential benefits that producing meat in factories could have. An independent study from the Environmental Sciences & Technology Journal has shown that lab-grown beef takes 55% less energy to produce, 4% of the total greenhouse emissions and 1% of the total land use. One of the major criticisms however of the practice, is that since the levels of energy consumption are so high, and estimates as to how much energy will be needed for a level of in vitro meat production on a commercial scale are not known, it is said that the solution could be equally as polluting as the current meat industry, although indirectly. However, with advances in power generation, such as the emergence of cleaner fossil fuel power generation technology, nuclear and renewable energy sources, high energy consumption does not necessarily indicate that the process is not “green”, only that our main method of producing electricity is not.

A problem that will cause us havoc over the next few decades is the growing rate of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria. Without effective antibiotics, medical procedures will become ever more difficult. The world health organisation has stated that standard procedures such as “organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk”. In addition to common diseases such as pneumonia and chest infections could become extremely lethal once again. Such an eventuality would increase the rates of mortality, increase the average length of stay within a hospital, and dramatically and adversely impact the economic standing within nations. For us to prevent widespread antimicrobial resistance a major step must be taken to do two things: reduce the rate at which microbes are becoming resistant, and two, develop new strains of antibiotics. The latter is not relevant within this article, however, the prior is. The intensive farming industry is one of the largest causes of AMR that we’ve identified. In essence, antibiotics are being used within intensive battery farming to ensure that animals are able to survive in squalid conditions, this is used to reduce the price of meat, and to also increase the amount produced. According to a report produced by an independent body chaired by the British economist Jim O’Neill, farming within the US uses up to 70% of antibiotics which are critical to medical use in human beings. These antibiotics are used in healthy animals to both speed up growth, and as a preventative measure to stop disease spreading due to the unhealthy conditions the animals are kept in, as a result, the levels of AMR is becoming ever more prevalent – especially within countries that have massively developed economically over the past 20 or so years. Due to a lack of regulation, antibiotics which are kept as a last resort to save the lives of human in case of widespread AMR are being used within the farming industry, because of this, bacteria is ever more likely to adapt to become resistant. In a recent study from China has shown that some strains of Escherichia coli have developed resistance to colistin, a form of polymyxin antibiotic. This antibiotic is a last resort antibiotic, one of the last effective forms in our antibiotics armoury.

The waste runoff from intensive farming is another major concern when antibiotics are used in farming, there is very little that can be done to prevent these antibiotics escaping into the environment. Studies of sludge at wastewater facilities have shown a growing level of resistance across the spectrum. It is evident that with in vitro meat that there is no necessity to facilitate the rearing of animals, and thus there needs not be any form of antibiotic use over the lifespan of livestock. The effect this has on AMR will be substantial. Potentially influencing the lives of millions over the next few decades. If there is a single overwhelming argument in favour of the development and use of commercially viable in vitro meat production, this is it. Opponents to cultured meat state that despite growing levels of AMR in intensively farmed animals, there are precautions which can be taken to ensure general levels of AMR are reduced, namely by regulating and reducing the use of antibiotics within the farming industry, however to do this, the agricultural industry must raise the standards of care for animals, thus increasing the price of meat. This is another area where in vitro meat could one day beat normally reared meat.

The cost of developing a lab-grown burger in 2013 was £250,000, by 2015 that price had dropped to £8. With the technology still in development, it would not be too foolish a projection to suggest that this price will drop further. The cost of meat grown in a lab will almost certainly reach a price that is cheaper than naturally raised meat, with the quality and health implications being better by all measurements. With less of an environmental footprint, a reduced effect on the development of antimicrobial resistance, and with in vitro meat being potentially lower-priced than battery farmed meat, the arguments for its consumption are great. Without even touching upon the morality of consuming another creature in being, the emergence of lab-grown meat is a positive development for society.


Why the House of Lords should remain unelected, and what reforms should be made to strengthen democracy.

The House of Lords is an institution within the British system of governance which today serves as the upper chamber in our bicameral political system. Its role is to act as a check and balance to the power of the House of Commons. It’s certainly not perfect, but it has developed and evolved since the very first “model parliament” of 1295.

Recently we have seen more calls than ever to see a proportion of the House of Lords become an elected body. This was last attempted via the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012. This bill was introduced by Nick Clegg to Parliament whilst he was Deputy Prime Minister – showing the scope of political power behind electoral reform of the House of Lords. Of course, this bill was quashed following opposition from within the Conservative Party, and rightfully so. Attempts to reform the House of Lords, to turn it into an elected body, must be opposed.

So why not an elected upper chamber? Well, primarily, the unelected nature allows the Lords to contain peers which otherwise would not be politically active and hence ensures that relevant expertise is incorporated directly into the law-making system of the United Kingdom. For example, peers like Lord Colwyn, who was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Royal Society of Medicine. Knowledge such as this is crucial in a parliamentary system which relies on reason to rule, rather than charisma and the ability to act as a politician.

Additionally, the tenure created in an unelected body means Lords do what is right, rather than appeal to populism in order to get elected. Sometimes what is right isn’t popular. It would be popular to reduce all taxes and increase spending by many within the electorate, but, obviously, such an action is not feasible by any means, and thus such an action could never be sanctioned by a member of the House of Lords with levels of intelligence that respective members should all have. They cannot fear campaigning for election; they are accountable to the nation and not the subsection of society that they would purport to represent.

The House of Lord’s appointed nature also means that scrutiny is properly administered regardless of the government in power. A politicised, elected, House of Lords could circumvent scrutiny from the lower chamber simply due to ideological concurrence with the party in power in the Commons, thus removing any real checks and balances. If we look at today’s political system and assume that a House of Lords would be elected in between the General Elections, then it would follow that there’s nothing to stop the Conservatives (for example) in this country being both the majority within the Commons and the Lords. Such an event would cause a severe conflict of interest relating to the aims of both chambers. Proper scrutiny would not be possible when party whips could easily threaten any Peers which act outside the party line with deselection or lowered campaign funds when it comes to the re-election due to their rebellious nature. If we turn our attention to the current state of affairs within the Labour Party, there have been various allegations of a potential mass deselection of Parliamentarians who aren’t loyal to Jeremy Corbyn – if true, such a situation could easily occur within an elected House of Lords.

A final reason why an elected chamber is unnecessary is because of the limitations already in place within the current system of governance. The Parliament Act of 1911 removed the ability for the House of Lords to use its suspensory veto and confirmed the supremacy of the elected House of Commons in doing so, meaning the House of Lords could only suspend and amend bills for a 2 year period. Additionally, it meant that all Money Bills presented to the Lords must be passed within 1 month, or they would be presented to Her Majesty regardless of the consent of the Lords. Subsequent amendments to the Parliament act in 1949 saw the Lords can only delay a bill for up to 1 year. The Salisbury Convention also means that no policy outlined in a party’s manifesto can directly be rejected by the Lords, and thus the democratic nature of the Commons is protected, and the primacy of the elected chamber remains integral and intact.

That being said, the House of Lords could be reformed to increase its effectiveness further; the removal of political parties would ensure that the central party system has little control over the outcome of the votes within the Lords. This reform would work to create a more cooperative and expertise based House of Lords, and less of a politicised unelected chamber. Secondly, the removal of the ability for the Prime Minister to advise the Queen on which members of society would be pertinent for appointments. This would reduce the nepotism and patronage that the Prime Minister can utilise for political gain, it also means that the appointment of peers isn’t entirely political in the Minister appointing those whom she or he knows would be sympathetic to the causes which they would pursue. Following on from this point, it’s necessary for the number of peers within the House of Lords to be capped; equal in number to the House of Commons could be a target to prevent the flooding of the House of Lords, in addition to the fact that the Upper Chamber can seat fewer than half of all Peers regardless. The size and cost of government would be reduced, whilst additionally not affecting the effectiveness of the revising chamber.

Currently, a proportion of the House of Lords is appointed by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Established in the year 2000, this is an independent committee which seeks out to appoint people to the lords who are independently minded and who have the relevant expertise to work within the House of Lords. A reform to allow this body to advise all appointments to the Queen would be in the interests of democracy rather than to have the Prime Minister give advice the Queen on the majority of occasions. The strengthening of this body to allow those that are of great value to the nation, and with specialist knowledge, to become Peers is the way forward to best scrutinise parliament.

Lords existing for entirely religious reasons is contrary to the purpose of the Lords. The Lords, by its very existence, should exist as a revisionary body, scrutinising proposals which come from the House of Commons to safeguard the constitutional legitimacy and effectiveness of any bills which are set to be passed. The selection of a person “by God” does not a qualified Lord make and, in its current format, it should follow those Lords who profess to represent those of the religion should equally have a place within the Commons based on religious beliefs, or that these people need no representation in the Lords either. Thinking from an independent standpoint, it would seem ludicrous to have members of the House of Lords in existence solely to represent the views of atheists, so why is it at all necessary for there to be a subsection within the Lords to protect a certain religious grouping?

Finally, the House of Lords Reform Act of 2014 allowed members of the House of Lords to formally resign or retire, something which previously was constitutionally impossible. Following on from this innovation, the setting of a retirement age for Lords to ensure the quality of scrutiny and standards within the Lords would help make the House of Lords a more effective body within the British political system. Ultimately, the revisions outlined within this article are reforms which would strengthen the ability of the Lords to revise and scrutinise the Commons, as well as fortify the UK’s democracy.

Coming out as a Tory: Why I left UKIP.

Recently I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. You might think that for an 18-year-old like me it would be moving in with my partner, or finally choosing which course and University I’m going to; but no.

Since 2010, I’ve been an active member of UKIP. I can remember at the ripe old age of 12 leafleting to help for their general election campaign with my grandfather. Over my time in the party I met some of the most brilliant people and found some of my best friends; it’s certainly no lie that if it weren’t for UKIP, I would never have found my partner, nor ever had the opportunity to see what it’s like to campaign with very little equipment, and with a bipolar public image that could get you both hugged and spat on in the space of 5 minutes.

Of course, that was 6 years ago now, and recently I made the decision to join the Tories. This is the first time I’ve announced to many that I’ve left UKIP, although, on the plus side, I’m sure many of my friends in the Conservative party will be happy to hear this. Telling a few of my close friends that I’d left reminded me of what it felt like to come out the closet!

So to explain my motives as to why I made this change, it’s best to state it this way: I’m a libertarian. I believe most strongly in the freedoms of the individual to have control over their social and economic prospects. I believe that I’m now best placed to achieve this within the Conservative Party. We’re the only party locally that has the ability to make a difference on the councils, the only party that can make substantial change in order to reclaim the freedom our forefathers have fought for, and the only party that, in the past, has stood up and fought so vehemently to protect both economic and social liberties.

It was the Conservative party to first have a sitting female MP, to first have a female Prime Minister. It was the Conservative party that legalised Gay marriage and allowed the Churches to finally decide their own religious stances, not be dictated to by the state. It was our party that brought into legislation a referendum on our membership of the European Union, and I hope it will be our party to finally take us out of it.

To quote Margaret Thatcher: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”, and our fight for liberty and freedom is one which will always occur. I hope that all those in UKIP respect my decision, as I have made sure to make this piece positive as to what I can achieve within the Conservative party, rather than the bountiful reasons as to why I have left UKIP. And I certainly hope that my new family will become as close to me as my last once was!

Find me on Twitter: @_JamieHollywood