Miles Kington: The irresistible appeal of a freshly minted peerage

People who were nobodies a year ago get a table at The Ivy. They're still nobody, so they didn't get a good table. But at least they were Lord Nobody
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The police have uncovered a network of fake peerage "factories", where immigrants from all over the world and indeed all over Britain are given fake identities as peers and smuggled into London to take on new lives.

Apparently there are now thousands of "peers" in Britain who started out in life as anonymous and obscure underlings from elsewhere. Somewhere along the line they have been kitted out with titles and cloaks and political opinions, and have merged with the populace to take on a new life, indeed, a New Labour life.

"It certainly explains why the Government keeps getting defeated in the Lords," says Lord Rickmansworth. "There must be hundreds of fake peers in there consistently voting against Blair. It's most unfortunate. You'd think they'd have more gratitude for being given a new start in life in Britain."

Lord Rickmansworth himself, who started life as plain Alban Zigred in Lithuania, and only acquired his title six months ago, is the Government spokesman for false identity, a subject on which he is well qualified to speak.

"People think that it's difficult to become a lord," he says. "God bless you, no - it's a piece of cake! It's as easy as falling off a log!"

Are these homely if slightly dated expressions some of the British phrases you pick up in peer-training camp?

"It's not that simple, of course," he says, ignoring the question in truly aristocratic fashion. "It's quite expensive, for a start. You have to dip deep into your pocket to become a peer. But once there, the world is your oyster. There is no limit to what a man with a title cannot achieve in Britain. I have known people who were nobodies a year ago actually secure a table for six at The Ivy just by phoning up and giving their new title. Of course, they were still nobody. So they didn't get a very good table. But at least they were Lord Nobody."

The amazing thing about the peerage business is that it can take any amount of knocks and still bounce back unharmed. People thought its credibility would be badly dented when Lord Archer went to prison. They thought that it would be further discredited when John Birt was given a peerage for making the BBC grey and boring, and then promoted to the task of making Downing Street grey and boring, to which he applied himself unstintingly. But still people hanker after titles, and still they respect those who have them.

"Wonderful, isn't it?" says Lord Rickmansworth. "And of course, if people are getting fake peerages, this does in a sense relieve pressure on peers who got their titles through the normal channels. I kept bumping into Lord Birt all over the place, drifting down corridors, attending meetings he wasn't invited to, offering solutions to problems which didn't need him, until it gradually dawned on me that his ubiquity could only be explained by the presence of several fake Lord Birts! Well, I only hope they have all paid their entrance fee, or entrance loan, or whatever.

"And how do you think Lord Bragg handles that enormous workload? Radio, TV, books, personal appearances, upper chamber work, etc? There's got to be at least four Lord Braggs out there doing it all. Probably explains the improbable hairdo. Helps them all be confused with each other ..."

And how many Lord Levys are there, either fake or real? But Lord Rickmansworth very tactfully refuses to be drawn on this subject.

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, Is there any truth in this farrago? Or is it some sort of satirical take on this manufacture of fake passports which is being widely uncovered?

Lord Kington writes: The fake peerage racket? Lord bless you, guv, it's all true! Straight up! Cross my heart and hope to die!

A reader writes: Thank you. That is all I wanted to know. Carry on.

Lord Kington writes: Some other time, perhaps. I am due for lunch at The Ivy in half an hour. Must dash. Toodle-oo, pip pip.