Over at lords in purdah, Baroness Murphy has been identifying phrases she wishes never to hear again. One phrase I would like never to hear again is the one used when seeking to justify some constitutional reform, such as a new electoral system or an elected second chamber: ‘Well, other countries have them’. The fact that other countries have them is not, in itself, a commendation for change. Imagine if someone argued for a military dictatorship in this country. Is ‘Well, they exist in other countries’ really a justification for pursuing that particular option? The fact that something exists elsewhere does not mean it delivers similar or even greater benefits than what exists in this country. If someone wishes to draw on experience overseas, they should carry out a detailed study of the effects of particular institutions or processes, but that perhaps is too much like hard work.
And on the topic of phrases I would like never to hear again, here’s a couple more: ‘There’s no smoke without fire’ (of course you can have smoke without fire) and ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it’ (what’s the point of getting cake?). I could go on – as I am sure could readers.