Thursday, 2 June 2011

Abuse of House of Lords

I can't help feeling a little bit sorry for Lord Taylor, who has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for fiddling his expenses to the tune of £11 000, a fleabite compared to the rakeoff the bankers are taking for the results of their incompetence. I suspect Lord Taylor felt that he was only doing what lots of others were doing and that the authorities would connive at his deceptions, but he deceived with rather less circumspection than was required.

However, his case illustrates a more flagrant abuse of authority by the establishment: the use of the House of Lords to over-rule the decisions of the electorate. Taylor was Conservative candidate for Cheltenham in 1992, but was defeated (by a Liberal Democrat, as it happens, but that is not germane to my argument.) But four years later whoever was leader of the Tories at the time said in effect "Sod the electorate, we're going to have him in parliament anyway," and gave him a peerage.

There must be dozens of similar cases, but one that has stayed in my mind for many years is the case of Joe Dean. Dean was MP for Leeds West but was defeated by Michael Meadowcroft in 1983. Yet this man, rejected by the electorate, was back in parliament within weeks as Lord Dean, nominated by no less a hero of the left than Michael Foot himself.

Now that House of Lords reform is once again on the agenda assorted peers, including, alas, some Liberal Democrats, are spouting about how wonderful they are and how the democratic process couldn't possible produce people as useful, clever, disinterested and civic minded as they are. Well, they would, wouldn't they?

Let's hope Nick Clegg sticks firmly to his guns, never ceases to remind both the Labour and Conservative dinosaurs that they too fought the last election on the promise of House of Lords reform, so that, generations after it was proposed and after every other democracy in the world has achieved it, we have a genuinely democratic legislature in the land which claims to a pioneer of democracy.

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