Ahem, there has been a lot of focus in the media (as most HPers will have noticed) about the ‘cash for peerages’ scandal following the arrest of Lord Levy.
But two questions have been bothering me.
(1) Why is a Labour government embroiled in this discredited social system at all?
The more cynical among us might note dryly that peerages are a corrupt system, so it’s only logical that they be further corrupted.
In fact, shouldn’t we have swept the aristocracy away by now – liberté, fraternité, égalité-style?
Now, some might argue that the modern peerage is just a glorified Noddy badge for services to the country – a nod and a nice new woggle for your cub’s uniform.
But that leads me to my second question.
(2) Why, if it is just a bit of recognition for a job well done, are people willing to pay up for a peerage?
The answer seems obvious to me. There must be social and financial rewards (in whatever round-about way) that accompany the ‘honour’ that are well worth paying up for – if you can afford it, of course. It’s an investment – in the narrowest financial sense too. It’s also an opportunity to lord over us all from a seat in the undemocratic and unelected House of Lords.
A Labour government should be moving to dismantle the aristocracy, not touting for new recruits.
That a Labour government could see peerages as a state asset to be eBayed off to boost the party coffers, is – needless to say – an even bigger scandal. A new peer gets social status and a permanent say in the political affairs of the country, but the party – rather than the society to which the new peer is responsible – acrues all the reciprocal benefits from the transaction. It’s despicable. It makes me think that like vehicle registrations and TV licenses, peerages (while we’re stuck with them) should be subject to an annual renewal fee!
Of course, it can’t be long before government spin doctors claim that this was a move to aid class mobility (you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?) and also a means to boost the left-leaning contingent in the HoL so that in future noble moves like banning fox hunting and repealing of Section 28 will go more smoothly.
This government promised Lords reform. Is this their best effort?
Openly and unashamedly Marxist they may be, but I agree with the general gist of the leader in today’s Times:
It is an open secret that those who are determined to be nominated for a political honour can advance their chances hugely if they offer big sums to a party. This bargain is not explicit: it does not need to be. Business is conducted semi-telepathically. It is a practice that has taken place under both the major political parties (and the Liberal Democrats have not been whiter-than-white either) for a very long time. The letter of the 1925 Act might as well be written in Swahili.
And it is a practice that stinks. It is utterly demeaning to every person and every institution concerned. Many of the wealthy businessmen are admirable souls, extremely successful in their fields, charitable in their private lives and a potential asset to the second chamber. Yet they can find themselves drawn into a squalid auction. It is a system that has to be reformed.