Until now I had resisted writing another piece about my disdain for the House of Lords because I feared that I would be repeating myself, however in days that have followed my previous article being posted various stories have come out detailing the continued operations of the upper house and I can no longer remain silent. Not only are these stories displaying many types of corruption, they are rightly revealing an antiquated system of ‘jobs for the boys’ at the expense of democracy thus bringing Parliament in further disrepute, if this is even possible.
The first story of recent days has been the scandal surrounding Lord Sewel, the member who was filmed by a newspaper taking cocaine with prostitutes. On an ideological level, as there was no evidence of violence towards the prostitute and the drugs he was taking didn’t impact upon anyone else I have no real problem with him doing what he did; in this situation I would adopt the French position of separating out a person’s personal and professional lives, particularly in resisting the sanctimonious Puritanism that still permeates the tabloids.
However, as the British establishment doesn’t share my view, and as a result poured scorn on his actions and remanded his resignation; this response is bizarre because the institution would rather have him resign his seat and keep his title than expel him, thus showing that the institution is inadequate in dealing with Peers’ actions that it deems unacceptable. In fact prior to 2009 no member of the House of Lords had been suspended since 1642; I defy any historian to claim that no Peer for over 350 years did nothing that could warrant being suspended.
The second story that broke recently was how Peers that have not been voting on legislation have been claiming their £300 daily allowances, at a cost of around £360,000 to the tax-payer. For all of those Conservatives that blindly support the continued existence of the Lord’s Place, I would implore you to ask the Prime Minister that you voted for to actually attempt to reform the Lords. My first point is one of logic; if I was going to game the system for my own personal gain I would claim the £300 daily allowance for every day I was in the Lords but then I would just vote on one bill to shield myself from criticism. Why would you turn up to the place where the voting is happening to claim your allowance and not bother, thus making yourself open to such attacks from the media?
Aside from my personal advice to Peers on how to be corrupt in a more effective way, I would then ask the moral question of whether they think its okay to be syphoning money off the state for doing no work at any time, let alone when the government are sure to bring in even more Draconian cuts to services that the poorest in our society rely upon the most. The other moral dimension to add is that in the current political system of Britain, Lords can impact upon legislation and make changes to the way society operates; neglecting to do so because you are driven by selfishness is actively preventing society from advancing.
The final story that was the motivating factor for me to break my silence was the announcement of the new influx of Peers to be appointed by the Prime Minister. The new appointees are a brazen act of the establishment to give former politicians and party donors an income from the state to ‘reward’ them for their service to their parties. Around 50 new Peers are being appointed, increasing the number of members of the Lords to 830.
I’ve already pointed out the hypocrisy of Cameron wanting to reduce the ‘cost of government’ by reducing the number of MPs, so I’d like to focus on the actual people being sent to the Lords. Tory appointments include former Foreign Secretary William Hague, former Chief Whip Sir George Young, former Universities Minister David Willetts, former Tory Special Advisers Philippa Stroud and Simone Finn, and former Tory donor James Lupton (who’s given the Conservative Party £2.5 million).
Labour appointments are no better as they include former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Gordon Brown’s former Direct of Strategy Spencer Livermore and former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain. The Liberal Democrats, to prove their opposition to the Lords, have decided to send a number of former MPs, all of whom have knighthoods: Sir Alan Beith, the 42-year former MP Berwick-upon-Tweed, Sir Menzies Campbell, the former athlete and 28-year former MP for North East Fife, and Sir Malcolm Bruce, the 32-year former MP for Gordon.
I’ve already said that I would like to see the House of Lords abolished so I would repeat myself. At this point in time I can’t help but think that the Lords has become a parody of itself; being filled to the brim with ex-politicians and party donors will destroy any remaining illusions of the Lords being a revising chamber and reaffirming its credentials as a collective ‘fuck-you’ to the democratic process.
All of these political parties, especially the Tories, should hang their heads in shame in not only appointing partisan hacks as a way of thanking them for election funds, but also for being able to change the system but flatly refusing citing the importance of tradition. This is just getting ridiculous.