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Are they trying to wind us up?

Being a man of simple and straightforward views, I was sufficiently incensed overnight by the announcement of the latest batch of newly-created inmates of the House of Lords that I immediately determined to write about it today.

Perhaps the greatest joy of sitting on the sidelines watching the Westminster Bubble at play is that so rarely do our political betters and masters (or mistresses) ever surprise us, e.g. by acting in accordance with any principle, decency, integrity, or even perhaps just pausing to listen to their public relations department strategists (if indeed they have any) on the subject of how the public might react to their self-interested obsession with looking after themselves and perpetuating their own positions in public life.

Not so long ago – was it not? – David Cameron and the Tory Party were ‘as mad as hell’ [a nod by me to the Howard Beale (newsreader) character, played by Peter Finch, in Paddy Chayefski’s 1976 classic movie Network, whose classic line was “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” – for any readers who missed the subtle, and I thought rather clever, reference] at the state of the membership of the House of Lords.

Why were they?

Well, you’ll be glad to know that I’m not going to bore anyone by going through and discussing the entire a la carte menu, but let’s just begin with the sheer numbers of peers in ‘the other place’;

the continuing but questionable right of Church of England clergy to park their fat behinds upon the red benches;

the ever-lengthening list of incumbents who are either get exposed for sex scandals and ‘done’ for expenses fiddling and/or make no secret of the fact that half the time they just turn up to ‘register’ for their daily attendance allowance and then bugger off to their local betting shop or massage parlour of choice;

the tendency of all political parties to reward time-serving nonentity MPs, political fixers or donors … people who they want to retire to allow newer blood to stand for safe parliamentary seats … just anyone who needs ‘persuading’ to stand aside from anything and, of course, odd people they met at parties and/or celebrities to whom they wish to suck-up;

and lastly, let’s not forget the fact that there are now just too many of them to actually all get to sit in the Upper Chamber at the same time.

[I invite readers to add their own favourite other items here …]

Yes, at one stage the Tories were even going to do something about it.

Or so they said.

There followed talk and rumour-spreading about plans ranging from abolition of the Lords right through to reducing its size, making it a second ‘elected’ chamber (as opposed to patronage-led) chamber … and so on, and so on.

Nothing happened.

Okay, at one stage the Tories began blaming their Coalition partner Nick Clegg for the lack of progress upon Lords reform. Apparently he’d deliberately blocked it because previously the Tories had failed to get behind his proposal to introduce Proportional Representation across the board, with the result that – when it came to a referendum ‘Would You Like it?’ vote – it was soundly, some might say overwhelmingly, rejected.

And so we came to more recent times, when the Government began issuing ‘sounding it out’ hints that David Cameron was considering the creation of a whole lot more peers.

The opposition parties then got the hump about this because – the allegation went – that the only reason the Tories were on the warpath was that Labour and the Lib-Dems had pumped so many grandees ‘upstairs’ that the Tory Party now felt it had do something to rectify the ‘balance’ in numbers to reflect the most recent General Election result.

I’m now torn between two theories regarding this latest raft of new peers.

Firstly, it could be that David Cameron – having failed to get the opposition parties to support his (or any) proposals for reform of the House of Lords – has accordingly now given up the fight. Having done so, he’s determined that his perceived Tory ‘lack of representation’ in the Lords should be dealt with (as in, restored to proper balance), hence this latest lists of ‘promotions’.

Secondly, (it has also occurred to me) that – in stark contrast to the above conclusion – Mr Cameron has in fact decided upon a more radical and ingenious path.

Miffed at having his House of Lords reforms being kicked ‘into the long grass’ by his opponents, he’s now attempting to get the British public united in rage at what is going on in the House of Lords.

He’s doing this by deliberately appointing to it the biggest band of cretins possible, thereby supposedly ‘confirming with bells on’ what we all believe in the first place, viz. that those who play politics have no interest at heart other than their own advancement and the reinforcement of their own sense of importance/entitlement. Via this route (this theory suggests) he hopes to prompt a groundswell of outrage in the country that will sweep away the Lords in its entirety.

That said, as earlier this morning I began toying with my thoughts in advance of writing a critical review of those names in this latest lists of new peers, I came across the piece by Quentin Letts that appears on the website of the Daily Mail today.

I’m a humble man, me, and I’ve never been afraid to acknowledge it when I come across others who can do things better than I can.

In which context I give you – and heartily recommend – Mr Letts’ thoughts as published in the DAILY MAIL



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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts