Friday 2 August 2013

More Tory hypocrisy: Stuffing the Lords

On August 1st 2013 the Tory led government announced the addition of yet another batch of unelected political stooges to the anti-democratic House of Lords. Of the 30 new life peers, 14 are Tories, 10 are Liberal Democrats, 5 are Labour and one Green.

The fact that the Prime Minister of the day can simply select as many life peers as he likes to sit in the unelected House of Lords is one of the most anti-democratic examples of political patronage in world politics. To put the absurdity of our anti-democratic upper house into perspective, try to imagine for a moment the public outrage in the US or France if it was suggested that their fully elected senates were replaced with a system of unelected cronyism like ours.

Since David Cameron came to power three years ago, he has added an incredible 160 new life peers, which come at an average £130,000 a year cost to the taxpayer. This is a rate of 53 new peers a year, meaning that Cameron is adding unelected cronies to the House of Lords faster than any Prime minister in history. Tony Blair is the only Prime Minister to have averaged even half the rate of Cameron (34 peers a year). The rest of the people to have served as Prime Minister since Life Peerages were introduced, have added new peers at a rate of less than 25 a year. David Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown only added only 34 peers in his three years, a fifth of the rate at which Cameron is currently stuffing the House of Lords.

Thanks to David Cameron's policy of stuffing the House of Lords, it has swelled to an incredible 861 members, none of them directly elected by the public and all of them entitled to £300 a day, plus expenses, plus subsidised food and drink in the various expensive eateries in parliament.

It is rumoured that Cameron has given the green light to yet another 23 Life Peers, but they are being made to wait a while before getting their free pass into the House of Lords because the government were afraid that adding more than 50 unelected peers in one go simply wouldn't wash with the public.

One of the most glaring problems with Cameron's abuse of the Life Peerage system is that several of the people he has given peerages to also happen to be enormous donors to the Conservative party. The pick of the current crop of 30 new lords is Anthony Bamford (of JCB fame) who had donated well over £2 million to the Tory party since 2001 via personal donations and donations through the JCB company accounts. Several other massive donors to the Tory party to have been given direct access to our pseudo-democratic parliamentary system include Philip Harris (£485,000 in Tory donations), Stanley Fink (£2.6 million in Tory donations), John Nash (£300,000 in Tory donations), Dolar Popat (£250,000 in Tory donations), George Magan (£800,000 in Tory donations) and Robert Edmiston (£1.1 million in Tory donations via his company). [source]

The fact that Cameron is rapidly stuffing the House of Lords with scores of Tory and Lib-Dem peers (including a concerning number of major Tory party donors) as a matter of official government policy is hardly surprising. It is clearly in the interests of the government to ensure that the unelected upper house is sympathetic to the government, so that any legislation the House of Commons passes, will simply be rubber stamped by the upper house. Stuffing the House of Lords with sympathetic cronies is exactly the kind of strategy one would expect of a self serving government with an aversion to oversight and accountability.

The problem for the Tories when it comes to their policy of stuffing the House of Lords with unelected political cronies, is that it runs entirely contrary to another Tory party policy, the electoral boundary reforms that were shot down in 2012 by the only noteworthy Liberal Democrat rebellion to date. The boundary reform plan was to reduce the size of the elected House of Commons from 650 members to 600, in a way that would ensure that the vast majority of seats to be lost would be in Labour and Liberal-Democrat constituencies.

Can anyone remember the Tory rhetoric on this? That a parliament of 650 is too big and unwieldy? Can anyone remember the official Tory party statement when the boundary reform legislation was defeated by the opposition parties and various Liberal Democrat and Tory party rebels? Well if you don't remember, here's the official statement released by David Cameron's press office:

"The Prime Minister's view is that he is strongly in favour of smaller, cheaper and fairer politics"

Now think about the way Cameron has been stuffing the House of Lords with scores of totally unelected Tory members (including several extremely wealthy Tory party donors) at an average cost to the taxpayer of £130,000 a year each. Think about the way Cameron has swelled the size of the unelected House of Lords from 704 members in 2010 to 861 now, with yet another 23 waiting in the wings.

Do these sound like the actions of a man that is "strongly in favour of smaller, cheaper, fairer politics"?

Do they buggery!

Once again Cameron's actions expose the emptiness of his words as just another populist justification narrative to obscure his real motivations (cementing Tory power by eliminating the parliamentary seats of opposition MPs). It is absolutely staggering that a man of such brazen dishonesty is able to serve as Prime Minister, he lies repeatedly and virtually everything he says is coated in a veneer of misleading political spin.

That Cameron is stuffing the Lords at an unprecedented rate is an incontestable demonstration that he was outright lying about his justification for boundary reforms. He clearly hasn't got the faintest interest in making politics smaller, cheaper and fairer. So what is the real motivation behind the Tory political reform agenda?

Lets think about how it is even possible to describe an elected house of 650 members as bloated and inefficient and demand that it is reduced by 50 members, whilst simultaneously believing that an entirely unelected house of 704 is nowhere near large enough and stuffing it with an additional 160 members in the space of just three years.

In my view, the only possible conclusion to draw from this contrast is that in the minds of people like David Cameron, the problem with the UK electoral system isn't that it is archaic, unrepresentative and riddled with anti-democratic practices, but that there is actually too much democracy and nowhere near enough unelected political privilege for their liking.

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