News from the Electoral Reform Society that members of the House of Lords who did not vote in the last Parliamentary session claimed £100,000 in expenses is sadly not surprising, but it should be shocking.
This summer, a succession of visits to and from friends and relatives in Italy and America revealed most of them have genuine admiration for Britain; our culture, history, economy and (despite Calais) humanity. Tube strikes notwithstanding, that our society largely works and is mostly not crooked also appeals. There is one notable, mystifying exception: the House of Lords.
Never mind the challenge of trying to explain it to foreigners, what about us? This latest news comes straight after the tawdry Lord Sewel scandal. That ended with his lordship resigning (under duress), but still keeping his title and privileged access to Parliament.
Then David Cameron, who has spoken loudly of his desire to shrink the size of Parliament, announces post-scandal that he is giving up on reforming the Lords. Instead, he will introduce still more Tory peers to make it “more closely reflect the make up of the Commons”.
It somehow makes a further mockery of a place I’ve thought was beyond satire ever since I went as a teen on a school trip, drew the short straw of the Lords gallery not the Commons, and was shocked to observe dozing old duffers dotted about the bare red benches drift into post-prandial slumber. This was government in action?
Worse, was my realisation that bishops – only Church of England bishops, mind you (not rabbis, imams or Catholic bishops) – sit there by right. And, that we’re the only major, supposedly modern country where this happens. Don’t even get me started on hereditary peerages.
To have such an outmoded chamber still enshrined at the heart of our Government makes a mockery of Britain as a modern, democratic society. But never mind, eh, the American relatives will enjoy their tour next week.Reuse content