Miles Kington: The difficult business of returning your Lordship

'I tried to book a table at one of London's smartest restaurants - more than 20 "Lords" had already tried to book, they were taking only commoners'
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The Independent Online

I am sorry to say that a good deal of my readers seem to be involved in the ongoing police investigation into the cash-for-honours inquiry, as I have received many worried letters from people who have been sucked into it.

Thank you to all who generously enclosed cheques or cash with your inquiries. It has enabled me to hire Lord Dunstay, a comparatively honest Labour peer, to deal with your worries:

Sir, After being given a title two years ago, I gave the Labour Party a large loan in gratitude, as I thought this was the thing to do. Although I have not yet been interviewed by the police, I do not look forward to being grilled, cross-questioned and possibly tortured by them, so may I inquire what the machinery is for returning a title? And, of course, for getting my money back?

Lord Kenthill

Lord Dunstay writes: It is not impossible to return a title. Tony Benn did it (so he could be a commoner) and Alec Douglas-Hume did it (so he could be Prime Minister). The best thing is to just stop using it, and people will forget that you ever had it (as Jonathon Porritt did.)

Getting your money back from the Labour Party is far more difficult, if only because they have already spent it. When the police come to get you, as get you they surely will, my suggestion is to pass the title quickly back to them. They will find a use for it, I am sure.

Sir, You speak truer than you think. I was visited by the police two months ago, probing this wretched cash-for-honours thing, on the rather flimsy grounds that some fund-raising for the Labour Party had been done by my firm,, and in the course of questioning it emerged that I, a commoner, had never been offered a title.

"Well, it's your lucky day, sunshine," said the Inspector. "We happen to have a spare one that nobody wants, handed in by the last person we talked to. Interested?"

I suspected a trap and said no. But it makes you think.

Lord Name and Address Supplied

Lord Dunstay writes: It certainly does. Next, please.

Sir, My experience may be of interest. I wanted to give Labour money. Nothing more. I wanted nothing back. I sent it off. I got a title by return of post! I sent it back. I got it back the next day, and so on. After a while I got tired of sending it back, and just put it in a drawer. But if the police are coming, I should dispose of it now.

Ex-Lady Costumber

Lord Dunstay writes: You are right. Well, try sending it to Oxfam. I believe they are now the country's largest second-hand title supplier. Next, please.

Sir, I was told when I was given my title by Downing Street that, if nothing else, it would come in useful reserving tables in restaurants. The other night I tried to book a table at one of London's smartest restaurants, and they told me that more than 20 "Lords" had already rung that day trying to book, and that from now on they were taking only commoners and minor knights. I see my title as another broken Labour promise.

Lord Gunwale of Hinckley

Lord Dunstay writes: Serves you right for eating posh. You should get out less.

Sir, It strikes me that the whole cash-for-titles thing is a load of hypocrisy. Titles have always been given for services rendered. When William the Conqueror took over in 1066, he gave land and titles to all those big hitters who had made his venture profitable. Every grand title started out as a royal thank-you. To be moral about this is meaningless.

Lord Pending

Lord Dunstay writes: Pending? That's a funny sort of name.

Lord Pending writes: Yes, well, I have been promised a title, but it hasn't come through yet. Incidentally, Lord Dunstay is a funny sort of handle too. I can't find it in Debrett's anywhere.

Lord Dunstay writes: Not my real title, old boy. It's the title I do my journalism under. It's a tax dodge.

Got any cash-for-honours headaches? Send them to Lord Dunstay. Don't forget to enclose a blank, signed cheque