Monday, 27 July 2015

The House Of Leers

Peering at newspaper reports on screen tells me that a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords has been caught if not red handed then red bra' wearing exploring the outer reaches of the permissive society; and at his age too.

He holds a number of responsible posts and by the rich irony that always occurs in these matters he has been Chairman of the Parliamentary Privileges and Conduct Committee.  His name is Sewel which inevitably means an "r" replacing the "l".

Because of technical complexities he remains a member of the House, entitled to what they are allowed and how long this will be the case is something that few if any know.

What is shocking to me is that I am not surprised.  The scale of dirty doings and fiddling revealed in both Houses of Parliament has been a rich source of media material despite their frantic attempts if not to stop it then at least to stop any information going public.

One of the many reasons why the "Great" has been lost to Britain is that our attachment to an unwritten constitution, once our pride, has meant an unwillingness to tackle major problems.  One is the way we deal with legislation and part of that is the House of Lords.

It was in 1909, the year of the Liberal "People's Budget", that Lloyd George complained about 500 unelected persons selected by birth having the final and crucial say in many matters.  The budget was turned down by a vote of 350 to 75, meaning 425 voting.

Since then and after 1911 there have been Acts of Parliament making adjustments, but the essence of the old Lords lives on.  This is for the simple reason that many earlier peerages were given on grounds of convenience, political needs, perks for a job and favouritism.

Our present Life Peerages, with us in the last half century are no different in many cases.  They are still appointed and it was very soon after their inception that Harold Wilson was handing them out, one might say almost willy-nilly.

The Attlee government that might have done the job of major reform in the late 1940's was shackled by the weight of work from their social and economic policies at home and the large scale efforts abroad.  They managed a minor reform but could not find the time that a major one involved.

Moreover, there were disputes about whether a Second Chamber was needed, what it would actually do and how it might be elected. These crucial matters are still at the heart of the debate as to what is to be done with The Lords.

Meanwhile the size and the cost of all this goes up and up as the numbers increase.  When a party comes to power it needs to up its followers in The Lords to get business done.  So when there is a change of party another draft of Doolittles is ennobled.

There is a point at which all this can become a joke and given where The Lords is and who are appointed the risk of bad jokes and accumulating worse jokes increases exponentially as the numbers people say.

This is just a part of the serial collapse of effective government at the centre.  Blair and Brown messed about the constitution by a series of one off decisions.  They were not the first.

We have foreign bodies invading our legal and regulatory systems at will.  We have large numbers of people in both Houses who do not know what they are doing.

And we have a House of Lords who can only warrant media coverage by doing what comes unnaturally.

1 comment:

  1. "What is shocking to me is that I am not surprised."

    Same here. It won't end well.