The Lords Mire Must Be Drained 27


It is very difficult to look at the dissolution honours list for the Lords without retching. Lord Prescott, Lord Reid, Lord Blair of Stockwell Tube Station? Then there are the Tory donors. Floella Benjamin is the only redeeming feature. Indeed, I hope someone can find Brian Cant and put him in there too.

But seriously, surely this lot, with so many of Gordon Brown’s backroom chums as well, stretch to breaking point the credibility of the Lords? It beggars belief that we still have this ancient stench-pit of corruption and patronage as an integral part of our legislature.

Nick Clegg has promised Lords Reform from this coalition, but Clegg deferred to the Tories by mentioning “grandfather rights”. The Tories are insisting that existing peers – or at least a large number of them – should remain members of the Lords until they die. So no democratic upper chamber until Ian Blair, John Prescott and John Reid peg it? Not to mention the new Tory peer 33 year old Oxford graduate Nat Wei? It is ludicrous.

Grandfather rights are unacceptable. The Lords must be swept away, and replaced by a democratic upper chamber with no unelected grandparents invited. Preferably elections should be by PR, but a fully elected upper chamber by 2015 will be over a hundred years overdue.


27 thoughts on “The Lords Mire Must Be Drained

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Go, Lady Floella (with Flowers in her Hair)! Oh yeah, it’s a pit of corruption, the rotting heart of Old Empire and New Empire, alike. As Robert Fisk termed our ex-leader, ‘Lord Blair of Kut Al Amara’. I’ve read Fisk’s excellent collection of articles: ‘The Age of the Warrior’. Btw, I too think that Brian Cant ought to be elevated thus. And Shep-the-dog, posthumously. And the chap with the Afro hairstyle in ‘Magpie’. Now let us sing this song all together…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ05514XLf4

  • Anonymous

    Prescott has stated in the past that he would never accept a title and would stay true to his socialist principles.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And Hector from ‘Hector’s House’, who was thought by some to be a parody of Ted Heath.

    Yes, it’s typical, Prescott was Blair’s chastity belt.

  • nextus

    Lord Charles: “I dreamed the other day that I was giving a speech at the House of Lords, and d’y’know, when I woke up, I was.”

    RIP Ray Alan (1930-2010)

  • angrysoba

    “It beggars belief that we still have this ancient stench-pit of corruption and patronage as an integral part of our legislature.”

    Rubbish!

    I think the Lords is a good chamber. Why would you deny someone Floella Benjamin’s new post? This is indeed a talking shop but it might be remembered by people like you (i.e old enough to remember) that the House of Lords was something of a useful check on the excesses of That Bloody Thatcher’s Government.

    As surely you know, the UK is something of an elected dictatorship given its three-line whip strictness when it comes to passing legislation and the Lords were something of a good thing in being able to send back legislation that it thought too, what’s the word? – precipitous!

    So, unless you already have a worked out plan when it comes to the two chambers of Parliament being a useful check on each other it may be too soon to talk of scrapping the Lords right now.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Angrysoba, I think many people have worked-out several possible formations which would allow a 2nd chamber to function in that way, as a check and balance. We ought not to have to rely on ‘The Lords’, as constituted in the 1980s or even now, to save us from extremist right-wingers. It’s like begging The Queen to save us from Thatcher – which is what people were virtually doing at one point. A sad reflection of the deep-rootedness of the British class system, in my view. Do you believe in the aristocracy holding political power?

  • Abe Rene

    I would keep things as they are, since we have democracy in the Commons. The phenomenon of aristocracy doesn’t bother me particularly. I doubt whether the Lords will sink into the pits because of a few Nulab entrants.

  • angrysoba

    “Do you believe in the aristocracy holding political power?”

    The question seems wrong for so many reasons. I don’t believe that “aristocracy” be *barred* from power and one reading of your question suggests I’m being asked my opinion on that. I obviously don’t think aristocracy should be given power to the exclusion of anyone else either, and clearly the House of Lords – as currently constituted – doesn’t exist like that, anyway. But it seems to me you’re asking about whether it should be acceptable to have an *appointed* body (and the suppressed premise – which I think is wrong – there is that the aristocracy will disproportionately find themselves in comfortable patronage jobs). I think it is okay to have one but if you are interested in replacing it as that then there are obviously more questions which arise from that:

    First of all, the subject is surely whether or not the House of Lords should be replaced with something. But the question “What should replace the Lords and how well will that work?” ought to come before “Should we rid ourselves of this stenchpit of corruption, this nest of vipers, this stale promontory, this pestilential congregation of vapours?”

    I don’t regard it beyond the wit of man to have devised an alternative to the House of Lords as currently constituted but at least tell us what you have in mind first as there is no guarantee that what fills a vaccuum is even better than the vaccuum.

    Should it be elected? If so, how will it be a suitable check on a particularly popular government such as we had in Tony Blair’s time in which we could have a New Labour Commons passing legislation that then goes to a New Labour House of More Equal Than Commons who peruse the new bill making it obligatory for every man, woman and child to bow before the embalmed body of Milton Freidman (do you like how I am playing up to your own horrors here?) every Monday morning and think to themselves that it sounds a very eminently sensible law and rubber-stamp it (and then do so for EVERY OTHER possible law that the Commons propose including term limits of 100 years etc…).

    I’m just saying, have a clear idea what you want before you propose it.

    Silly people will say they want a written constitution without having the first clue what they want that constitution to even say. The written constitution of Democratic Kampuchea cannot surely be worth our replacing of our current nebulous and unsatisfactory state of affairs though, can it?

  • Anonymous

    ‘The Lords Mire Must Be Drained’

    It is where an ex mp goes to collect their secondary pension provision, ‘Drained’ from the taxpayer. It is also a very good place to make even more spondolies by selling favours to people like BAE, etc.

    You think they are going to give that up.

  • James Graham

    I agree with you regarding further appointments and grandfathering (although that still leaves open the possibility of a retirement scheme) but once the elected second chamber cat is finally out of the bag, a future parliament can kick out the stragglers later.

    Let’s not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

  • angrysoba

    “It is also a very good place to make even more spondolies by selling favours to people like BAE, etc.”

    This sounds a bit confused. What is it about being IN THE LORDS that makes someone an attractive target for, say, BAe?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    To be perfectly consistent Craig:-

    A. You are correct in saying that the Upper Chambers hereditary arrangement is undemocratic.

    B. So – tell me – who elected the Queen or the Royal family?

    C. Surely, you should be consistent in support of not just an aspect of “democratic” representation, but on all aspects of “democracy” in governance? Surely?

  • Louise Gallagher

    I can’t see any government truly reforming the Lords, no matter what they’ve pledged beforehand, because they quickly grow fond of such a powerful source of patronage.

    However, the one benefit with the current Lords is that once they’ve received their peerages, Peers are effectively beyond the manipulations of party politics and can be truly independent if they wish.

    If anything ever does replace the current system, I wouldn’t favour a second house elected on the basis of party machinery.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @Louise Gallagher

    It really is an elaborate game to gain power, then manipulate to lead people to believe that “representation” obtains by reason of an “x” on a ballot paper….

    Election Time ( By Tina Louise)

    Venom lips hissing hurt,

    Arse kissed leaders dishing dirt,

    Politicians’ uncaring demeanour,

    Outdoing each other at being meaner,

    Election day due very soon,

    Time over baby’s heads to swoon,

    Mimicking humanitarian response,

    False images to ensconce,

    In electorate’s minds afresh,

    Evil deeds in bins enmeshed,

    Forget all that happened then,

    Now is what they choose to pen,

    Not the ‘now’ of the wise,

    Just the now that’s ‘then’ in disguise,

    A new script and character plot,

    Sheriff’s badge and white hat on top,

    Clearly revealing god’s chosen one,

    Definitely the guy with the biggest gun,

    Saving the masses who without him will die,

    Squashing evil-doers who dare ask why,

    Why this way is better than that,

    And what gives you the right to the big white hat.

    Population torn in two, three, four pieces,

    Following leaders who talk of Jesus,

    Not clear which one’s good,

    Political mumbo-jumbo misunderstood,

    One offers better schools,

    One lays down too many rules,

    One eases taxation,

    One preaches of an almighty nation,

    And another swears he’s green,

    There’s even a hero from the silver screen,

    So many choices on ballot form white,

    Too many voices on screens through the night,

    Screeching or soothing lies to the voters,

    Pledging to rescue all the no-hopers,

    Urging the masses off their collective behind,

    Whoever you choose, don’t make-no-never-mind,

    Although you will select your vision of good,

    He’s just from an elite brotherhood,

    Of back-scratching people with egos to feed,

    Born, educated and bred to lead,

    You from freedom and into control,

    Of manipulative self-serving party goal.

  • craig

    Courtenay,

    Being neither Greek nor German, why would I have a sentimental attachment to them?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,

    Smart sensible response.

    I was focused on the standard rationalisation for Monarchy, as the continuity of British history and the symbolism which the Crown lends. I honestly thought that with your background in history, you might very well have an angle that focused on such considerations.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,

    If one were to pull the “Royal veil” and look at the raw facts and truth, right downn to the death/murder of Diana, then some credence is given to what this commentator has said:-

    “The British royal family started the same way that any of the royal houses of the world started, and continued throughout history. They were the best at murder, deceit, theft, corruption, etc. They had no morals and were willing to do anything and were way more violent than anyone else.”

  • Craig

    Courtenay,

    I don’t think they killed Diana though. In fact I think you have to be really nuts to believe that.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Angrysoba, Duke of Osaka,

    Yes, of course one must have ideas about the new formation. Apart from the changes already introduced over the past decade or more, I think the Commons again voted on reform two or three years ago and a big majority voted for reform.

    A predominantly elected – with, one would hope, (as in local authorities) many more independents than at present and varying, but longer than in the Commons, terms – and with elections not in synch with general elections – would be best, I feel. Perhaps STV or a mixed system – as in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament – would be a good system.

    http://news.stv.tv/election-2010/analysis/176335-stvs-guide-to-stv/

    There is no human activity entirely free of the risk of patronage and corruption, and unfortunately sometimes the legislature comes to reflect the broader (ruling cadres of) society in this regard. However, there are ways of countering this, through structures and timescales and ‘Elizabeth Filkin-like’ accountability dynamics.

    If we retained a certain proportion of ‘senators’ with very long terms – say, 10 years – it might act as a balance to the extremes of any Thatcherite/ Blairite/ any-other-ite Lower Chamber. Because elected, they would also have more authority to do that – no more 1911s!

    I think it’s time for bishops and the remaining hereditary peers to apply their often considerable talents elsewhere. The ‘lords’ could always relinquish their titles and then stand for election to the Upper Chamber (as did Tony Benn, to the Commons, many years ago). I think it’s high time we got rid of the title, ‘lord’ from our operative political lexicon and our minds. Nobody is my ‘Lord’ or my ‘Lady’, except my lady!

    On the other hand, if aristocratic titles (and the monarchy) were to be abolished altogether (a measure which I would favour, along with land reform and other redistributive measures), there would be nothing to stop these individuals (though not the bishops, unless they wanted to leave the Church or after they retired or whatever) from standing as candidates for the new body. So, for example, Prince Charles (now named ‘Mr Charles Windsor’) could stand for election to the new Upper Chamber on a ticket of re-building Britain as the New Florence or the New Fez (!)

    I know, though, that the latter suggestion is in cloud cuckoo-land at present, whereas continued reform of the Upper Chamber is realistic at the present time. So let’s go for that!

    Sincerely,

    Saadi, Earl of Gles-ghu

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Btw, I do not write from a position of class envy, something which, I notice, too often tends to bedevil discussions like these in the UK. I genuinely think that these types of reforms would be good for Britain.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Craig,

    “I don’t think they killed Diana though. In fact I think you have to be really nuts to believe that.”

    I think you are wrong.

    Answer me this:-

    A. The woman wrote what came to be termed the “Mischon letter” .She stated therein the plot to kill her in a car accident.

    B. First round of judicial hearing the Policeman suppresses, hides the letter. He is promoted to be “Lord”.

    c. Later the same letter surfaces.

    Guess she was clairvoyant when she wrote first about the plot.

    Craig, you have been around government types and situations involving state misconduct. You can’t say that Royalty, be it British or others have never engaged in plots to be rid of one of their own. You can’t say that a “nigger” ( read : Arab) half-brother/sister was going to be a welcomed situation for the lily white royal aristocracy. Of course, now Craig, there really was no motive that Liz and the bunch ( read: Phillip as point man) would have had to be rid of the nuisance Diana had become. Surely not now Craig?

    You as a former British Ambassador should be far more savvy about such things Ambassador Murray. But, then again, there are things that you learn about statecraft when placed in such positions. You do remain, ultimately, a diplomat. You might be nuts to come out blatantly and speak the obvious truth based on the known facts. How does one at the highest levels suppress this type of evidence (http://www.nowpublic.com/world/bbc-admit-mishcon-note-fulcrum-point-both-sides-princess-diana-inquest) then try to call someone “nuts” for saying that in fact she was murdered and evidence was deliberately withheld? “Corruption” is more to the point, and no one is nuts for pointing out the facts just as they unfolded.

    As a wise man once said:-

    “Facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.” Werner Herzog

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