When a liquid, or a potion, or any mixture is guaranteed to be 100% pure, that is commonly accepted as being ‘the real thing’. There can be no substitute for adulteration, no dilution is permitted; there are definite restrictions on advertising a compound, or a mixture, or any substance which contains less than the agreed ingredients in correct proportions; because to allow this would be to accept that the lesser product is as efficacious, or as potent, as ‘the real thing’.
As with chemistry, so with politics. Our system of political representation was developed over centuries of trial, sometimes of error; but always of retaining the items which worked, discarding those which did not meet with expectations, and ensuring that the People were at least governed and kept safe. Many politicians enter their field because of a sense of justice, many others because of a sense of injustice, whether experienced by a few, or many. But the people whom I write about today are mostly failed politicians, remnants of times past, of egos too big for their boots, of blunder, bluster, avarice and bigotry!
I refer to the present House of Lords, not the past. In my own lifetime I have watched as the finest Second Chamber in the world has become dilute, stained, and as more than a few have noted, a political laughing-stock. In most of the last century, we in the United Kingdom had a gathering of people who were beholden to no one, who were independent of thought and politics because they owed no-one any favour because they were there because of their birth, not because of political influence. We had scientists, philosophers, engineers, businessmen, artists; people of enormous talent whose experience was freely available to scrutinise and reform legislation put forward by Members of the Commons. And, folks, it worked! Because they had the time, because they were beholden to no whim of a political party, they gave value and indeed benefit to a political process which stood in great need of it.
It is true, not all Members were hereditary. The Crown retained the right to establish peerages, who then retained the hereditary principle, but it was not until 1958 that Life Peerages were established. These posts were established ostensibly to overcome the alleged inability of Peers to attend Parliament regularly, with the attendant problem that the ‘backwoodsmen’, those who attended infrequently or hardly ever, could wreck any legislation by appearing out of the blue, as it were, and with a majority demolish years of work by both the Commons and by political draughtsmen.
But if you now look at the make-up of the Lords, dominated as they are after the gerrymandering techniques of the Labour years, yes, and of Conservative times as well; by failed politicians of all hues, of people who can and will be told, ‘vote our way’, and will follow the strictures of a Party and not an opinion, knowledge or a conscience. On the Labour side of things, we see the Welsh windbag Kinnock, Lord Levy, one time money bag-man to Tony Blair, two prime examples of reward for failure. We see Pola, Baroness Uddin, but not for a while, because she has been banned from the House for what should have been called theft and fraud. Alongside Uddin are two more prime examples of Labour’s prescience in political honour distribution, Lords Paul and Bhatia, who have also been fined large amounts of money for similar offences to Uddin, but were not banned because they admitted their wrongdoing. We also see Baroness Floella Benjamin, but nobody knows really why! Name after name, of people ennobled for entirely the wrong reasons, or for the right reasons if you are of that mind.
Similarly, on the Tory side of the aisle, we see patronage at its best, with Baroness Anelay, formerly Chairwoman of the Conservative Womens Committee, with no other expertise to show that her ennoblement was nothing else than a political gesture; and it works, because she is Chief Whip for the Tories in the Lords. We also see Ken Baker, now of course Baron Baker of Dorking, who had also been described as the reason slime gets a good name in Dorking. We hear the names Conrad Black, but we don’t see the good Baron Black of Crossharbour, because he is just about to return to an American prison to serve out the remainder of a sentence for fraud. We note the names by the dozen, of political friends who have served their purpose well in the sleazy art of politics, and now get their rewards in ermine and good tables in restaurants.
By virtue of a single Legislative Act, the Labour party destroyed the whole idea of an Independent Second Chamber, whose role was to scrutinise and remedy legislation placed before it by the Commons, on the grounds that the Lords were not ‘accountable’. Looking as we do now at some 600-odd political placemen, only some of whom are sentient; with a small rump of the hereditary peerage remaining, , would anyone agree that the result of Labour’s gerrymandering has been beneficial to democracy?