The UK is a country which has a Bicameral Parliament. This means that Parliament has two chambers, or Houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the House of Commons, our elected MPs debate political issues and introduce bills that could potentially become law. But bills can only become law after going through the House of Lords. Many people in the UK suggest that the second chamber is undemocratic, as it is not elected; there are those who even believe it should be totally scrapped altogether. But others say that the UK should have a second chamber, despite the fact that Lords are unelected. So to what extent does the UK really need the House of Lords?
Those in favour of abolishing the House of Lords say that the chamber is not democratic, as it was not elected by the general public. They suggest that as it is unelected, it is not representative of the British public. No one voted for those who sit in the House of Lords, yet they have a significant impact on the laws that affect our everyday lives. Why should an unelected chamber have such a heavy influence on our laws?
Even if the House is not abolished entirely, there are ways to make it more democratic. Reform of the House of Lords has also seen much support. One possible change would be simply to elect representatives into the second chamber. This would arguably make Lords more accountable for their decisions, as the public will have voted for them; they would have to answer to their constituents and actually deliver on the needs of the British people.
But supporters of the House of Lords say that another election would cost too much money. They suggest that the chamber should stay as it is, as appointing Lords costs far less than electing them.
They also argue that, without a second chamber, the House of Commons could have too much power. Without the House of Lords, the Commons could pass more bills without them being as heavily scrutinised as they are now.
There are many valid reasons both for keeping, reforming and abolishing the House of Lords. They range from looking at the economy to considering to what extent the House of Lords can exist in a democracy such as the UK. In my opinion, the House of Lords needs to be changed. It is ironic that a democracy can have an unelected chamber that has so much influence over the laws that we have to abide by. So if the House of Lords is to stay, I would be strongly in favour of electing its members.
I once heard an anecdote about a man who, when he dies, wanted to be buried with his expensive car. People close to him were confused by this – they couldn’t understand why he wanted something so valuable to be buried with him, as he wouldn’t be using it anyway. But the man’s response, I thought, was pretty eye opening. He said that when most people die, they take with them things far more valuable than a car. They take their organs. Organs that could have saved someone’s life.
I’m not sure how true this story is, but it was extremely thought provoking. There are so many people in need of a transplant, who will die prematurely without one. So should everyone be automatically placed on the organ donor register and have the choice to opt out? Or is it better to let individuals decide for themselves if they want to opt in?
Organ donation has been a very high profile issue recently. Just yesterday, MPs backed a bill in Westminster which would change the law on organ donation in England. If successful, people in England would automatically become organ donors but could choose to opt out of this. Scotland is also looking into introducing this while Wales already has it in place. It is, however, a highly contentious issue.
So what are the main arguments both in favour of and in opposition of the opt out system?
Arguments in favour:
- According to the NHS in England, around 500 people die each year as there are not enough suitable organ donors. Hundreds of people are losing their lives every year, which could be prevented, or at least reduced, if there were more organ donors.
- More than 6500 people in the UK are waiting for a transplant but only 3500 transplants take place per year due to the lack of donors. Even if some of those people eventually do get the organs they need, their quality of life is likely to be compromised while they wait.
- Many who oppose the opt out system may argue that the uncertainty of what a person would have wanted after death could be upsetting for their family. As a person can die suddenly at any time, they may not have opted out, even if that was their intention.
- Another argument against the proposal is that it’s not up to the state to make someone an organ donor, even if they can go through the process of opting out. Organ donation is something individuals should be able to consider for themselves and choose to opt in should they wish to do so.
In my own opinion, the opt out system could be hugely beneficial to so many people. There are thousands of people whose lives have been put on hold while they wait for a transplant. Many of those people have a lesser quality of life while many others will sadly lose theirs. So why should organs be buried or cremated if they can be used to save a human being’s life, or greatly improve their life’s quality? As an organ donor myself, I strongly believe that, in time, the proposal could help so many people who need it.
100 years ago, some women over the age of 30 were granted the right to vote. This was a huge step forward on terms of gender equality in the UK and women can now vote on the same terms as men. As a 21-year-old female who has voted in two general elections, two referendums and one council election, I am so grateful to the Suffragettes for all of their incredibly hard work.
But in 2018, males and females are still not totally equal. The gender pay gap is arguably the most prevalent example of this.
We’ve all heard about the most recent BBC gender pay row. It is unacceptable that such a huge company has been paying its female employees less than their male counterparts. But it’s not just the BBC that has been doing this – it is a problem that also exists in so many other companies across the UK.
Even certain attitudes towards males and females still differ significantly. This is particularly noticeable in the showbiz industry. There have been countless occasions in which women have been criticised for their weight, their clothes, their make-up (or lack of) and so much more. There have been cases in which males have experienced this but, in comparison to women, this has rarely been a huge problem for them.
It might be a century since some women first got the vote but the Suffragettes are still extremely relevant in today’s society. Gender inequality still exists in the UK and there is still a long way to go in dealing with it. I am sure the Pankhursts and the Suffragettes would continue to work hard to achieve full gender equality. And that’s what, I think, we should do 100 years on from women first having the right to vote.
On Friday morning, I returned from my four months on Erasmus in Brussels and spent my first weekend back in the UK. I still don’t know exactly how to feel about being back – I’ve felt a mix of emotions.
Part of me is fairly glad to be back. Having my own room and bathroom and kitchen again is lovely. I’m really pleased to be surrounded my books again too! Even the small things, like not having to pay to do my laundry at the dorm, are pretty nice.
But inevitably, I really miss Brussels. It feels quite strange waking up in the morning and not being at the dorm. It takes me a couple of seconds to remember where I am again.
I knew it would be strange to be back in the UK again, but I also know that I have a lot to look forward to. I start placement tomorrow morning which will be both challenging and exciting at the same time. And there will definitely be opportunities in the near future for me to further my career in journalism and to allow me to reach my goal of being a foreign correspondent.
It may be hard for me to re-adjust to being back after so long but I’m sure it’ll get easier. I know I’ve got to focus on going forward in life and take the great things in my future as they come.
Although I miss my Belgian second home so incredibly much, I know I also have a lot to look forward to.
It’s Thursday 25th January 2018. It’s my last day in Brussels on Erasmus. It’s now time to say bye to what has become my second home.
It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m leaving Brussels tomorrow morning. I suppose that’s a good thing – it means my last day here won’t feel quite so sad.
But there’s so much about my time here that I’ve absolutely loved, which will definitely make it difficult to leave tomorrow.
Of course, the best thing about having been here for four months is having met those amazing people I now call my friends. Every single one of them has made my stay here a million times better. We have travelled together, a few of us lived in the same place, and we all managed to have a laugh the whole way through. My international and Belgian friends are definitely why I always felt so happy in Brussels.
The city itself: what an underrated place. It might not be the biggest or most flashy city, but Brussels definitely has so much that makes it so amazing. From the Grand Place, to the Atomium to everything else in between, Brussels really has some beautiful places.
Having been in Brussels for four months, I’ve kind of made a life here. I had a sense of routine, places I always went and I felt so at home here. It’ll be really difficult to leave all of that behind.
Because of all this, having to leave tomorrow will be so hard. Having to adapt to my old life back in the UK will be pretty difficult.
But the one thing to remember is that I can always come back. Brussels really isn’t that far from the UK so it’ll be easy to do so. And I absolutely will be back.
So thank you, Brussels. Thank you for being such an amazing second home. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.
Earlier today, I realised that I’ll be going home from Brussels at the end of next week. It’s a strange thought considering I’ve been here for so long and my life here now seems normal. But I decided – in order to make going back just slightly easier – to think about some of the things about the UK that I’ve actually missed.
British people have, in my opinion, the best sense of humour. It’s pretty strange at times but I absolutely love it. We also have some of the funniest TV programmes. Gogglebox is absolutely brilliant, with ordinary people unintentionally saying the most hilarious things. Britain’s Got Talent always reminds me of how witty the British are – that’s why I kind of love it. While I haven’t watched it much, Channel 4 Does Countdown also makes me laugh so much – the jokes and anecdotes are simply fantastic.
A UK wide chain, it is actually one of my favourite places. It’s pretty cheap and you get the best food and drinks – what more could you want? Spoons definitely makes for a great night out. And I definitely have my fair share of… interesting… stories from nights out at spoons.
I didn’t think it was possible to miss a currency but apparently it is. I’ve pretty much got used to the Euro – after four months you’d think so anyway – but using the Pound will always be far easier for me. Also, not having to pay bank charges will definitely be a bonus!
- Discussions about how to make tea
Admittedly, this one is very stereotypical but it’s actually a conversation I’ve had many times. ‘When do you put the milk in?’ ‘How milky do you have your tea?’ ‘Do you teabag out before putting in the milk?’
Everyone does it differently and we all have different opinions about the ‘correct’ way to make a cup of tea. But just for those of you who may not know, the only correct tea-making procedure is as follows:
- Boil the water
- Put a teabag into the cup
- Pour the water into the cup
- Leave the teabag in for a couple of minutes until strong enough
- Take out the teabag and put in the bin – by the way, don’t let anyone convince you that reusing a teabag is in any way acceptable
- Put in a drop of milk and stir – but not too much milk. You have milk with your tea, not tea with your milk
- Take the first sip of your tea and feel like nothing can get in your way – after all, tea makes you feel invincible
- Old people talking about the weather
Another British stereotype is making small talk about the weather. I’ve never really understood why we do this but I’ve pretty much accepted it as a thing that just happens in the UK. But there’s actually something quite nice about some random old lady saying she hopes the rain clears up soon, even though the forecast says it won’t.
I’m genuinely really sad about having to leave Belgium – I’ve become pretty attached to the place. But there are definitely some great things about the UK that I have to look forward to. And I most definitely am looking forward to them!
We have all heard about Donald Trump labelling African countries, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, as “sh*tholes.” The UN described him as having been racist, a reaction that was echoed by the African Union. Even the Vatican said Trump has been “particularly harsh and offensive”.
Honestly, Trump was absolutely sickening in his behaviour. It is shocking that the President of the United States, one of the world’s most powerful countries, would even consider saying something so awful. It’s not like America doesn’t have its fair share of issues to deal with. But sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised by Trump. He is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most sickening people out there.
But his comments prove that we really do need to look beyond national stereotypes. A country may have issues but there are always positives. There are incredible people from every country, even the nations classed as “sh*tholes” by Trump.
I want to take Yetnebersh Nigussie as an example of one of those incredible people. From Ethiopia, she is an extremely hard working human rights lawyer. She has faced discrimination herself, because of the country she is from, for being young and for being a woman. She works tirelessly for females’ rights and to change perspectives on disabilities. She is quoted as saying: “Focus on the person, not the disability. We have one disability, but 99 abilities to build on.”
What makes Yetnebersh’s achievements even more amazing is that she is blind. She is blind but her extremely positive attitude has let her grow into the success she is today.
Yetnebersh is just one success story of so many to come out of a developing country. She proves that there really are positives to these nations – she is, after all, one of those positives herself.
So Trump can make appalling comments all he likes, but he can never take away the brilliant work of amazing people such as Yetnebersh Nigussie.