Politics: Blair targets Tory peers

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Tony Blair is planning to make inroads into the Tory majority in the Lords by announcing a working list 25 new life peers after the Queen's Birthday Honours List at the weekend.

Most of the new life peers to be announced a week later will be Labour Lords, reflecting the Government's belief that there is an inbuilt majority for the Tories in the Lords which must be tackled.

The Prime Minister's decision to create more life peers came as the threat of a constitutional crisis over the Lords deepened last night.

Lord Cranborne, the Conservative leader in the House of Lords, caused controversy when he described the hereditary peers as "fuzzy wuzzies" who were being mown down by Tony Blair's "maxim gun."

Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians seized on the remarks as fresh evidence of the outdated attitudes which showed the Government was right to remove hereditaries' voting rights.

The Government warned Tory peers it would use the Parliament Act to force through legislation to reform the House of Lords, if Tory peers used their majority with hereditary peers to block it.

The warning of a constitutional battle with Tory peers came after Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown backed the Government's reforms to the Lords in a report calling for radical changes to the constitution.

Paddy Ashdown

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