Of course Mr Blair might legitimately argue either for a stronger or a weaker Upper House. But he has never attempted to do so. Instead, he made the removal of the hereditary peers his absolute priority - strange behaviour indeed from a man who frequently tells us that "what counts is what works". Mr Blair is presumable not actuated by class hatred, so there are only two explanations for his attitude: either he wants cheaply to please his Left, or he dislikes the hereditary peers precisely because they are independent. Intolerance of dissent is not always a sign of strength. In Mr Blair's case, it looks increasingly like a sign of pettiness.
BLAIR HAS sought a confrontation with the hereditary peers and can hardly be surprised that he has got one. A year ago there were a dozen schemes being floated in the Palace of Westminster for phasing out the hereditary peers by agreement. Indeed, there are 100 or so hereditary peers, ranging from distinguished statesmen to specialists in one area of policy or another, who could properly have been converted into life peers. They are experienced parliamentarians. That would have defused the issue and could have rebalanced the support for the different parties. There was no need for this row if the Prime Minister had not wanted it. (William Rees-Mogg)
NEW LABOUR proclaims that it is an enemy of old ideas of class; its third-way ideology means it wants an end both to class defined by the confrontation between capital and labour and class defined by flummery, honours and lordships. But to want the end demands willing the means. Does it have the bottle? It has certainly begun with the House of Lords. Maybe, just maybe, its convictions will carry it in more radical directions than any of us suspect. (Will Hutton)
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