Blair's lords-a-leaping ready to bring down the house
Wednesday 05 March 1997
With the long haul almost over and a Labour victory in sight, the word on the street is that lists are being drawn up for a veritable swathe of new life peers. And there is no shortage of takers among Britain's left-wing elite.
Labour's new model aristocracy will have a job to do, of course, helping to push through proposed constitutional reforms. Some senior sources say they may have to be drafted in sooner rather than later if hereditary peers' voting rights are to be removed.
Safe to say, though, that Mr Blair will not have to look far in his search for worthies who are keen to sport the ermine. All he has to do is sit back and wait for huge crowds of party donors, luvvies and other hangers- on to beat a path to his door.
But the Prime Minister-in-waiting should beware - the road ahead is bristling with pitfalls. What, for example, of all those faithful souls who have helped to fund the election effort? Of Barry Cox, an old friend of Mr Blair's who made a mint in independent television and who raised a tidy sum for the Labour leadership campaign? Of James Palumbo, whose Ministry of Sound night club has provided a chauffeur-driven Rover for the use of Peter Mandelson and his staff? A tricky business, this.
But wait - there are plenty of showbiz types who support the Blair cause. And they brighten the place up no end. How about that nice Melvyn Bragg, for example? Or Dawn French - she seems like a nice, church-going type. Damon Albarn from Blair - whoops, Blur - is a Labour man, and even Brian Clough has been seen wearing red occasionally.
Well, maybe not. After all, the main qualification for these jobs is that their incumbents should turn up regularly to vote. After all, too many of the old party faithful have been kicked upstairs in the past and never seen again. Baroness Falkender, ennobled by Harold Wilson 23 years ago for faithful service as his political secretary, has yet to make her maiden speech. What New Labour needs is good, solid, hard-working peers who have proved themselves in high-flying posts, who aren't over the hill and who are prepared to give up the day job in favour of the Lords' attendance allowance of pounds 32 per day.
So, how about Edwina Currie, then? Often seen in Parliament, good pro- European views. But sadly, still a Tory. Labour's Lavender List must be free from discrimination, of course - imagine the shame if Mr Blair's nominees turned out to be all male! - but that might be going too far.
Jamaican-born Bill Morris of the TGWU would have been an excellent choice, too. But Mr Morris has already said he still has work to do with his union and is not yet ready to be elevated.
This game is not as easy as it looks. Ah, well, back to the drawing board. Did someone say Kevin Keegan was looking for work?
Tony's home bankers
Helena Kennedy QC
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Sir Gavin Laird
Christopher Haskins (chairman of Northern Foods)
Diana Warwick (head of vice-chancellors' committee)
Trevor Phillips (broadcaster)
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Damon Albarn (from the pop group Blur)
Baroness French of Dibley
Jack Dromey Lenny Henry Brian Clough
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