week’s Letter from London is once again actually coming to you
from London. As such I shall be returning to the usual format
of discussing the big issues of the week; in this case two in particular.
The House of Lords, and (you guessed it) cash for peerages.
In the last few weeks these issues have been very much one and the same. However this week saw a House of Commons vote on the reform of the Lords and accordingly we can (for once at least) separate the House from the scandal.
Wednesday MPs voted to reform the Lords by demanding that all members
be elected rather than appointed. The result
of the vote came as a shock to many (indeed almost all), who expected
MPs to vote for a partially elected, partially appointed House.
Whatever the result may have been however, one thing is certain.
The constitutional significance of reform is startling.
The House of Lords has existed since the 14th Century (although it has only been known as the House of Lords since 1544). Many would argue the Lords have in that time discharged their task commendably, and would therefore question the need for reform. Indeed as Philip Davies MP has asked:
“Why are [Labour] so determined that there must be elections to the House of Lords, which has no powers at all, bar those of revising and advising [the Commons]?”
A fine question indeed.
though it is safe to say we will have elected Lords in the not too distant
future. However, despite the vote in the Commons, the Lords may
not become a fully elected chamber. Why? The decision will
not pass into law; instead it is expected to ‘inform’ government
plans. In New Labour speak that tends to mean… very little.
As is so often the case, time will tell.
With that, let’s move on to the scandal; cash for peerages. Earlier this week the BBC had an injunction placed on it blocking a report focusing on cash for peerages. The injunction was sought by Downing Street and needless to say provoked huge media interest in both the injunction and the information subject to that injunction. Farcically, in a very British way, the injunction did not apply to any other news outlet and as a result lead to an amusing situation involving the publication of stories relating to the story the BBC couldn’t publish, all the while leaving the BBC unable to comment on the stories being published by those other media outlets… phew time to take a breath. Whatever the story is we can be sure of one thing: the cash for peerages scandal is far from over.
a lighter note (who would have thought I’d end with one of those)
Gordon Brown may be many things. But this week he proved beyond
doubt the title ‘Iron Chancellor’ is well deserved. Not wanting
a numb mouth during a speech later in the day the Chancellor opted let
a dentist drill through deep nerve tissue hours before the speech… without anaesthetic! Hardcore.