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Saturday, August 01, 2020

Bloated House of Lords to expand further

Like a legislative Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's 'The Meaning of Life', the House of Lords is to expand still further until it is in danger of bursting open from government gluttony and a refusal to adopt a more healthy lifestyle.

The news that Boris Johnson is to nominate dozens of new peers, taking the membership of the unelected second chamber to over 800, almost 200 more than the House of Commons, has been met with widespread dismay. This is especially so as the list includes some of the more unlikely of the Prime Minister's pals, making it possibly the most controversial since Harold Wilson's Lavender List.

Russian-born billionaire newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev and the prime minister’s brother, Jo Johnson, are joined by Johnson’s chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister, as well as a host of Tory grandees and well-known Brexiters, including former England cricketer Sir Ian Botham.

Ex-Labour MPs who backed Brexit – Kate Hoey, Ian Austin, and Gisela Stuart – are also on the list. But noticeably absent are former Commons speaker John Bercow and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

Tory donor and City grandee Michael Spencer is also among those nominated for a peerage. Charles Moore, who as a former Daily Telegraph editor was the prime minister’s boss, and Claire Fox, the ex-Brexit party MEP and former member of the Revolutionary Communist party, are both nominated for non-affiliated peerages.

Neil Mendoza, the provost of Oriel College Oxford who found himself at the centre of the recent Rhodes Must Fall controversy, was also nominated by Johnson for a peerage. He was heavily involved in securing the £1.5bn arts bailout and is expected to play a role in distributing it.

The Guardian reports that Lebedev, who is nominated as a crossbench peer, hosted Johnson at his Italian party in 2018. The prime minister also headed to Lebedev’s London family home in the aftermath of his 2019 election victory to celebrate the 60th birthday of his father, Alexander, a former KGB spy.

They say there is also a peerage for former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley, whose support for Boris Johnson during the 2008 London mayoral election played a key role in his victory over Ken Livingstone.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The Lords was already the largest second chamber in the world. There are now over 800 unelected peers, voting on our laws for life. Is packing the Lords with party loyalists really a priority, as a pandemic rages across the world? This move is an absolute insult to voters. This is making a mockery of democracy.”

By rewarding his friends in this way. Johnson is just reinforcing the undemocratic nature of our governmental system. A true radical would reduce the second chamber in size and democratise it. Unfortunately, our current Prime Minister does not appear to be interested in such a reform.
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