At the height of the expenses crisis I wrote that we faced a crisis of representation, that the aristocratic code of ethics upon which a curious kind of English political legitimacy rested had been broken forever. The gentlemen were not all that gentlemanly.
Since then the anger has simmered. Some rage inwardly. Some intend to not vote or vote only in ugly protest. Some rail at the political establishment. Sometimes, their diatribes thinly disguised longings to cling to their tiny parts of it. Some suffer the shame felt by all those who fail to act effectively for lack of ambition, breadth of vision or will – even when it is truly, burningly necessary. We retreat to a fitful slumber with a distant dream of “throwing the villains out” at a coming general election.
But then thanks to Dispatches on Channel 4 we find yet more – the buying of lawmakers by private companies while still in office, while they supposedly represent the values and interests of the people. Yet again more petty corruption and cronyism in politics, yet again that feeling of indignation in people as Sir John Butterfill confidently boasts “It is quite likely that I will go to the Lords...another string to my bow as far as you’re concerned”. Though both MPs and Lords were implicated, the feeling that the Lords is the place to do this dirty business, and indeed that a place in the Lords is even its reward was hard to escape.
While the expenses crisis triggered more radical talk from politicians on the change we need than ever before the “cash for influence” scandal breaks mid conversation – as we are wooed for votes with 4th term promises of a reformed Lords or deliberately obscure pledges to “work to build a consensus for a mainly elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords”.
A simple response presents itself. NO MORE LORDS. After cash-for-peerages, cash-for-amendments and the outrage of non-dom donors all in a House packed with appointed cronies and a rag tag bunch of aristocrats and bishops let this be our simple call -that any party wanting to carry the banner of democratic renewal prove itself today by pledging to appoint no more individuals to the ermine.
With the dissolution of parliament now imminent many MPs will now be counting the days till moving across the halls of Westminster into the Lords –and among them grubby little expense offenders, those who have sold their influence and the public trust, and those who aspire to little more than to deepen their entrenchment in positions of political power.
We cannot stop the appointments if the parties choose to make them. But we can be quite clear:
- it is simply not credible to talk of democratic renewal while continuing to stuff the Lords full of cronies for life
- it is a simple fact that to do something different you have to be different
So let those democratic reformers out there, lurking in red, blue or yellow stand up and prove that they are different, that they won’t profit from a corrupt system, or wink at those who do, or sigh and say ‘well, what can you expect’. Make this call loud and clear: NO MORE LORDS! Join the campaign - http://www.power2010.org.uk/nowchange