Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Bad News Barely Burried
It was back in September 2001, the time of the devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, that Jo Moore, a young advisor to our then Labour government recommended to her boss that this was " a good time to bury bad news." She was eventually forced to resign.
In due course I'm sure the same fate will fall on our Prime Minister Theresa May, though probably not just yet, since her rivals need her to stay in office so that she and not they take the blame for the Brexit shambles.
Last weekend, then much of the UK (and, apparently, considerable chunks of the rest of the world) were fully absorbed in the minutiae of the royal wedding, Mrs May chose to announce the appointment of a further 13 members of the House of Lords.
Question 1. Why does the House of Lords need a further 13 members? It already has over 800 members, each receiving £300 a day (tax free, I think) for signing in - they don't actually have to say anything, or even remain to sit and listen.
Question 2. In October 2017 the Lord Speaker's Committee recommended that for every one new member in, two should have left, by dying or retiring from active participation, so that the membership is gradually reduced to 600, which will then be regarded as a ceiling. Which 26 former members have left to make way for the new 13?
Question 3. The same Lord Speaker's Committee recommended that: "Political appointments should be shared between the parties in line with the result of the previous general election." Given that in the last election Labour and the Tories were neck and neck, how does Mrs May justify nine new Tories but only three new Labour peers. And how can she possibly justify another one for the DUP, the party of the late Ian Paisley, the epitome of neanderthal intransigence?
Of course, Mrs May is not interested in reason or logic.
In the past few weeks the House of Lords has defeated no less than 15 measures in the government's Brexit Bill. So Mrs May shamelessly uses her outdated prerogative powers in a desperate attempt to reduce the likelihood of future defeats. Power rather than principle is, as always, the Tories' guiding light.
Given the absorption of the media in Meghan Markle's wedding dress, the well behaved bridesmaids and pageboys, Mrs Doria Ragland's dignified demeanour, and the splendid (though long) sermon by Bishop Michael Curry, these issues have escaped serious comment.
Way back in the 1950s, when I began the academic study of British politics, the lecturer on the British constitution was a Mr Chekanovski (I may have spelt that wrongly - it's a long time ago). When discussion the all-important "conventions of the constitution" he laid great stress on "The British sense of fair play."
I wonder what he would say now.