Now Boothroyd turns on Labour

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Indy Politics

The Baroness, the former Labour MP Betty Boothroyd, said the party had enjoyed "far too large a majority", which enabled it to "steamroll" its opponents.

She backed Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who complained that the Prime Minister saw fighting sleaze as a low priority. "It was absolutely right for a man in that position to speak out as he has done and I hope that 10 Downing Street have taken note of that," she told BBC News 24 in an interview to be broadcast today.

Labour successfully exploited the issue of sleaze besetting John Major's administration in the run-up to the 1997 election.

Asked what had gone wrong after Labour gained power, Lady Boothroyd said: "It came in with very good intentions, making all those statements, setting up all these conventions, these institutions - quite right. But somehow there is an arrogance that has been built in there because they feel that it doesn't quite affect them."

Lady Boothroyd stepped down as Commons speaker in 2001 and, despite her Labour background, sits as a crossbench peer.

She said that she had prayed at the last election for whatever government was elected to have a "nice majority" of 30 or 40.

"Otherwise there is arrogance, there is steam-rolling over everything," she said. "We do not want the presidential style of government in this country. It does not suit us at all.

"And I'm sorry to say that in recent times there has been one party with far too large a majority." She disclosed that, while she was House of Commons Speaker, she had raised her concerns about the Government's attitude to Parliament with Tony Blair, ministers and the Cabinet Secretary.

Lady Boothroyd also attacked the idea, which is widely supported in the Government, of having a partly-elected House of Lords. "I've never heard how that's going to work," she said.

"Are my votes less important than somebody who's been elected?"

She argued that a fully elected Lords would be a "huge challenge to the primacy of the Commons".