Reflecting the view of millions of shocked people across Scotland and the UK, a resident of Maryhill, Glasgow, was yesterday overheard uttering the following current affairs commentary: “If ah’m still gakkin’ massell mental aff’ ae burds’ tits when ah’m 70, ah’ll regard that as ma’ crownin’ lifetime achievement”.

Whether or not you agree with that profound analysis or aspiration, you might be one of those people wondering who it is that’s getting off their heads on the imported Class A’s which make Scots the largest per capita consumer of Colombian coke IN THE WORLD (the president of Colombia once told me this in his office in Bogota)? Or considering whether Lord Sewel can possibly be personally consuming all the impressive volume of white stuff which makes London a world centre for trading and consuming recreational drugs. Indeed, you might even be wondering if the striking hypocrisy present in the new Sewell motion coverage might be that issued by public moralists rather than expressed in the actions of poor old, red-brassiered, Sewel himself?

Whatever, this wee blogpost isn’t in fact about ‘drugs policy’ – it’s about commonplace establishment denial and the uncommonplace House of Lords.

The first thing the House of Lords did was call in the cops in a cheap PR move – nothing had happened under the HoL’s jurisdiction and this action alone froze the upper chambers’ ability to act at in any way without compromising the perfectly possible future sub-judice status of Sewell’s motions. The next thing was to denounce Sewell as a bad egg and announce that he would be replaced as, hilariously, ‘standards’ overseer (ah, that bit about Sewel’s hypocrisy, fair enough…)

Every public authority, whether caught out over child sex scandals, systemic failure causing the deaths of thousands of patients or simply actual serial murder, makes ‘radical changes’ before final reports come out and say there’s a new system and people in town so that scandal ‘could never happen again’. And yet I don’t remember the 1990s especially as a time when the doctors and administrators, the BBC, council officials, cops, the rest, were utterly incompetent and working within systems so alarmingly dysfunctional that only disaster could follow. Maybe it was such a time – but if it was then how can we possibly judge that NOW isn’t also such a time?  Jesus, most of the professionals making these ‘never again’ announcements now were part of those institutions then, weren’t they?

The ‘this can never happen again’ school of public utterance is designed to allow folk to continue to deny human nature and pretend the world is other than it is. Over time, most things improve gradationally and that should comfort and inspire us. Isn’t that good enough? Do denial and perfection really need to be part of the prescription?

In any case, the Sewel case is a bigger problem for the Lords than Staffordshire is for the NHS because in its own way it’s a small component of a larger existential crisis. Only dafties doubt the need for the NHS. A lot of people are wondering what in God’s name we’re doing, in a modern democratic state, allowing people to buy their way into our legislature. So here’s a thought.

The Tories are in the ascendancy; they love the House of Lords. Labour is powerless in all the ways and, for the main part, finds the house of Lords a distasteful necessity. After all, Labour has to work with the system as it is, right? Because that’s just the way things are, yes?

Well, no, actually. The third great force in UK politics – the SNP – simply ignores the House of Lords as a preposterous place beyond defending in any serious democracy.  And they’re right to. The simple fact is that the future of the House of Lords is the one thing which isn’t in the gift of the Tories.  If Labour joined the SNP in a boycott, the House of Lords would die immediately (“Hey guys, we got 100% of the vote again, good job….”) and it would hardly be beyond the genius of our civil service to propose a workable democratic alternative – or no replacement at all. This would not be a wrecking action of Labour’s, rather it would be to make a genuine blow for a better democracy which would be viewed by historians retrospectively as a profoundly progressive achievement borne of a new kind of partnership – and in opposition at that.

This week, the government will fire up the latest batch of lucky contributors – making the Sewel problem rather larger than it otherwise might have been. Labour has four potential leaders on the hustings. Will any of them be up for an breathtaking announcement that they will, as leader, take the opportunity provided by the strength of the SNP and replace the Lords with something more suited to a 21st century democracy?

Nah, ‘course not.