What Should Become of the House of Lords?
Posted on July 28, 2015
It’s quite strange isn’t it, that the House of Lords always seems far away from our minds, hidden away in the background like a child with Tourette’s syndrome that a parent is too embarrassed to take to a social function.
It only really seems to pop up in the news and social media when it gets caught out beyond the apparent boundaries of its own dubious conduct, as with the case this week with Lord Sewel, the deputy speaker and the man employed to uphold standards, a position that offers such irony, it begs Alanis Morrisette to re-write her 1990’s hit single Ironic.
“It’s like making parliament standards strict and plain, then blowing all your expenses, on whores and cocaine.”
Surely that is better than a ‘Black fly in your Chardonnay’ which still sits in the Guinness book of records as the worst ever attempt at irony since the word was invented.
Fun with cocaine and prostitutes: Lord Sewel
The House of Lords really does has a chequered history and as I recall from my youth, I can remember lots of scandals about some chap called Lord Justice Pickled-Onion or something like that, claiming that women could save VAT on tampons by using soap as well as virtually condoning rape if the woman in question had the temerity to wear a skirt. What a fine chap, I think you will all agree.
To his credit, at least Lord Sewel wasn’t involved in paedophilia (an alleged common practice with these chaps) and it would seem that the snorting of cocaine with ladies of the night was consensual and no-one got hurt. In a way, you can almost feel a surreal kind of admiration for a man with 68 year-old heart that can take on the sort of strain that is generally reserved for ageing 1970’s rock stars.
However, what it does do, is open the debate about an unelected chamber of old duffers who get paid £84.5k a year plus up to £300 a day (equating to 3 grams of coke and a prostitute) for overseeing the MP’s who have placed them into their positions of power.
To try to put this into some kind of perspective, an MP nominating a Lord, is a bit like one of my clients paying me to nominate who they should outsource their staffing requirements to. The answer, unless I was completely stupid, would be for them to use Bob Lethaby of course, because he is great and the only man fit for the job.
It would also be blatantly corrupt.
As an example of corruption in The House of Lords, in 2013 Tory peer Lord Hanningfield claimed that one of the more common sights was that of more than half of its members clocking in for a couple of minutes each day so they could claim their expenses, or whore and cocaine money (call it what you will) which is, as it stands, a perfectly legal practice that the tax payer foots the bill for.
However, it gets worse still as the cost is rising, despite us ‘all being in it together’ in times of austerity. Currently, there are 820 peers in the House but this is set to rise past the 1000 mark because, as there is no longer a coalition government, PM, David Cameron, will seek to add to the number of Tory peers. This exercise is to readdress the balance of losing all the Lib Dem peers who are now, after an outright Conservative victory, members of an opposition party.
The problem you see, is you can’t get rid of the old ones as they can’t be sacked. There have some been changes, with hereditary peers banned by The House of Lords Act in 1999 but 92 of these remain in place, presumably until a new act is agreed, or they die. However, even with them gone, The House of Lords will still only have room for half the seats for the projected increase in peers who, remember, are not elected by the people but nominated by MP’s.
As well as not being sacked, there is no retirement age either, so they can just sit around getting their £84.5k until they are dead. This does have its consequences, a fine example being Labour Peer, Lord Greville Janner, who was discovered to have voted 203 times as well as amassing £104k in expenses despite being diagnosed with dementia and having his children being given power of attorney.
That’s right, money is being thrown around everywhere and the House of Lords is thought to use up a huge chunk of the £200 million budget that goes to Westminster, with £1.3m going on food and drink to feed the greedy buggers. Recently, a cost cutting plan was put in place to merge the catering department with the House of Commons but this was rejected because…check this out…there may be a deterioration in the quality of the Champagne!
Oh yes folks, whilst some poor old dear out in the sticks no longer has a bus service to take her to the library which is about to be shut down, these lot are busy embarking on blazing row over the decrease in the quality of Champagne the tax payer is buying them. You really couldn’t make this stuff up but it is largely kept out of the media because the media is dominated by peers, or peers of peers if you get what I mean.
What I didn’t know, probably because I am a practising atheist, is that the House of Lords still boasts 26 bishops from the Church of England called the Lords Spiritual, who have an automatic right to sit in the upper chamber. I read an article today that said that the UK is the only western democracy to give religious representatives the automatic right to sit in the legislature.
I know nothing about these religious types apart from the fact whenever there seems to be an abuse scandal, they are never far away from it; to have all these unaccountable and unelected weird types sat in positions of power with a load of old farts placed in power by MP nominations is, I think you will all agree (unless you are a Lord) is asking for trouble.
There have been serious allegations made about the establishment recently, with The House of Lords often being the centre of accusations that make a night with a prostitute and a bowl of cocaine look like a picnic in comparison. It could even be argued indeed, is argued by some that Lord Sewel has been thrown to the wolves as a distraction tactic as public curiosity about establishment abuse hots up.
It seems a ludicrous coincidence that when these allegations do starting rising to the surface, everything suddenly goes quiet again, with those leading investigations or having direct knowledge into improper conduct, either getting taken off the case, or worse still, are found dead adorning fishnet suspenders having apparently been suffocated by an orange before zipping themselves up in an Adidas sports bag.
As far as I can gather, we need a House of Lords, albeit a reduced one, but surely it is now time for them to become an elected body as part of the general election voting system where all votes are counted and not just thrown in the bin if they are not the outright winner. Surely, in the 21st Century, we can’t continue to have chamber that is unelected, unaccountable and described by one of its own members as “full of rogues and greedy bastards”.
As for Lord Sewel, he has gone, he had no option, but his crime, with consenting adults, is an irrelevance in comparison to that alleged of some of his unelected peers, past and present. There could be any number of reasons why The Sun set him up, one of them being to appear to be moral bastions as News International continues to seek to destroy the BBC. Who knows?
For the record, in case I go missing courtesy of this post, I can confirm that I am not in to asphyxiation by fruit or the wearing of suspenders, no matter what an enquiry concludes in 15 year’s time.