Witan of the Kingdom of Northumbria

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Witan of the Kingdom of Northumbria
Leadership
Structure
Witan2.svg
Political groupsGovernment (8):

Opposition Parties (12):

Lords Spiritual (5):

  •      Bishops (4)
  •      Abbotts (1)


The Witan is the upper chamber of the Kingdom of Northumbria's legislature, consisting of members appointed by the various heads of state of Northumbria's counties. Each head of state is granted the right to appoint a number of members roughly proportional to their county's population; The Prince-Bishop of Durham and the Abbott of Hexhamshire are also granted the right to appoint Lords spiritual.

The Witan is often considered the more 'conservative' of Northumbria's two chambers, as it includes religious officials and exhibits a small bias towards rural counties when allocating seats.

Etymology

The Witan is named after the Witenaġemot (/ˌwɪtənəɡəˈmt/; Old English: witena ġemōt; "meeting of wise men"), also known as the Witan (more properly the title of its members). The Witenaġemot was a ruling council in Anglo-Saxon England consisting of members of the nobility and the clergy responsible for advising the king.

History

The Witan began as an adaptation to Northumbria's unicameral parliamentary system. Northumbria was initially a single-party state led by the authoritarian National Democratic Party. After mounting pressure however, the NDP agreed to implement a wave of democratising reforms in early 2021, allowing the creation of other parties and establishing rights to free speech and association.

More conservative members of the NDP were worried that a left-wing party could arise and alter the fundamental constitution of Northumbria, abolishing the monarchy and the aristocracy, who composed a significant subset of the NDP's power base. As a result, this wing of the party proposed the creation of a second chamber whose membership would be appointed by the heads of state of Northumbria's counties (several of whom are members of the aristocracy or the clergy). The belief was that any resultant left-wing party would have to compromise with the aristocracy in order to win a majority in the legislature, thus requiring an abandonment of any explicitly republican policies.

The left-wing of the party (many of whom went on to form the Socialist Party) conceded to their demands, but placed restraints on the power of the Witan, which could amend legislation from the lower chamber, but could not fundamentally alter the "intended purpose" of said legislation; the Witan could veto legislation, but could be overridden by a second vote in the lower chamber. On "constitutional matters" however, the Witan was given an absolute veto.

The Witan also served to entrench Durham irredentism within Northumbria's constitution. The Prince-Bishop of Durham is able to appoint eleven of the twenty-five members, granting him the ability to impede any attempt to shrink the size of the Prince-Bishopric of Durham. In turn, the members appointed by the Abbott of Hexham are seen to be very sympathetic to Durham irredentism, fearing that an enlarged Northumberland county would seek to absorb Hexhamshire also. This effectively secures a majority in the Witan in favour of Durham irredentism.

Composition and seats

The WItan is composed of twenty-five seats, and has been since its creation. It consists entirely of members appointed by the various heads of state of Northumbria's counties, unlike the lower chamber whose membership is elected. Each head of state is granted the right to appoint a number of members roughly proportional to their county's population, though a small bias exists favouring more rural counties like Northumberland.

The heads of state are free to appoint members as they see fit, though can only do so immediately after a general election. Some (like the Prince-Bishop of Durham) try to appoint members in a manner proportional to their county's partisan makeup in the lower chamber; others (like the Earl of Northumberland) tend to appoint members based on their own partisan predilections.

Lords Spiritual

The Prince-Bishop of Durham and the Abbott of Hexham are also granted the right to appoint Lords spiritual who sit as crossbenchers. Due to this - and the tendency for heads like the Earl to appoint right-leaning members - the Witan is usually seen as the more conservative of the two chambers.

Powers

The Witan possesses three major legislative powers. Firstly, it has a "hard veto" on bills pertaining to Northumbria's constitution. Secondly, it has a "soft veto" on all other bills, which can be sent back to the lower chamber for a second vote; if the lower chamber once again affirms the bill, it becomes law without the consent of the Witan. Thirdly, it has the ability to add amendments to bills so long the amendment does not alter the "intended purpose" of the bill - an amendment may, for instance, increase or decrease the amount of funding dedicated to a government body, but could not reduce funding so much as to make the bill redundant. The bill with its amendment can then become law without a second vote in the lower chamber. Whether a bill pertains to Northumbria's constitution, and whether an amendment is too drastic are matters determined by the Royal Arbitrational Council, the highest court in Northumbria.

At the same time, the Witan is heavily constrained in comparison to the lower chamber. It cannot initiate a vote of no confidence against the government, and cannot produce new bills or amend pre-existing laws. This is in keeping with the Witan's original purpose, which was to constrain the lower chamber's ability to fundamentally alter the basic structure of Northumbria's constitution. As a result, the Northumbrian government may lack a majority in the Witan without fearing removal, though this will make it harder to pass legislation efficiently.

Sessions

Government Prime Minister Official Opposition Official Opposition Leader Period Image Notes
National Democratic Party Rilgar Ompastre Socialist Party Martin Aquinas 4 March 2021 - 30 July 2021 Witan1.svg Coalition government comprised of the National Democratic Party and the Christian Democrats
National Democratic Party Rilgar Ompastre Socialist Party Martin Aquinas 30 July 2021 - present Witan2.svg Majority government comprised of the National Democratic Party