Sleeping with the one-time enemy: Banks joins the establishment club

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Indy Politics

When Tony Banks enters the House of Lords, he will be among the peers who fought the bitter campaign to ban hunting with hounds.

When Tony Banks enters the House of Lords, he will be among the peers who fought the bitter campaign to ban hunting with hounds.

The elevation of the 62-year-old former West Ham MP to the peerage marks the end of his journey from firebrand left-winger to establishment figure.

Mr Banks was a surprise inclusion in Tony Blair's list of working peers yesterday, which was dominated by loyal former ministers.

He announced in November he would step down as an MP after more than 20 years, declaring that he found constituency work "tedious in the extreme".

The committed Chelsea fan has advocated abolition of the upper house since the 1970s and fought bitter battles over fox hunting which ended in the first use of the Parliament Act to over-ride the upper house in recent years.

He was educated at St John's primary school, Brixton, London; Archbishop Tenison's grammar school, Kennington Oval; York University and the London School of Economics.

The former MP, whose wit and wisdom feature in a book of sayings, won fame in the 1980s as a leading figure in London local government, closing the Festival Hall champagne bar as elitist and calling for the Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank to be renamed Peace Gardens.

He entered Westminster in 1983 as MP for Newham North West, which became West Ham in 1997. In 1997 he was surprisingly chosen by Mr Blair as sports minister, a job he held until 1999 when he left the Government to concentrate on London's failed bid for the 2006 World Cup.

At Westminster, Mr Banks has been prominent as chairman of the Commons Works of Art Committee, which commissions paintings and sculptures for the Palace of Westminster.

It is unclear whether the ardent animal rights campaigner, who once called for the exclusion of turtle soup and frogs' legs from Westminster menus, will wear ermine.

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