There they sat on the long red benches, under the golden throne, waiting for Charlie Falconer's statement on propriety in public life. Lord Loan was chatting to the Lord Cashier; Baron Four Per Cent Above Base Rate shared a joke with Baron Back Hand, Lord Lolly and the Marquess of One Point Five Million. Marvellous sense of continuity in the Lords. Up in the back bench sat Lord Walpole, whose ancestor started the whole system that has evolved over the years into Charlie Falconer.
Charlie's something of a cheerful scallywag, as lord chancellors go. He was able, without blushing, to say that he was determined to create transparency in party funding. He also deprecated the release of prospective peers' names to the media, and had absolutely no - Absolutely! No! - reason to suppose the leak came from No 10. Try saying that yourself and your cheeks may burst into small fires.
Yes, there's more to Charlie than meets the eye, and not just because he has the best corset-maker in London. It's easy to think of him as an amiable ass, but he did brilliantly choose the right judge to investigate Dr Kelly's death. And now he's equally brilliantly chosen to ask some already-honoured civil servant, and given him the rest of the year to write up his recommendations. Why was he chosen? Because "he's in the bag!" one Commons heckle went.
"Have any of these loans ever been repaid?" a peer asked. The Lord Chancellor didn't know. "Further work is required," he said. Cries of "Oh!" from the gallery, at least. Why doesn't he know? Of course he knows. Why won't he say? "This is much more profound than simply about loans," he told their lordships.
Having watched our radiant Prime Minister for six years, I'd say there is nothing more profound than his belief in his own integrity. If he sees - on television - that he hasn't been honest, he may implode.
They're all implicated, of course. And they'll all use the affair for their own purposes. To promote the state funding of parties. To abolish the House of Lords.
Oliver Heald asked: How was it possible for such a large amount of money to find its way into the system without people knowing about it?
But Parliament wasn't able to ask the sordid questions that lead to the really nasty stuff. These government statements were about government matters, you see, and the cheques were party matters. So, it wasn't possible to ask ... who were the cheques made out to? Which bank account did the cheques land up in? And who had signing power on the account? If the answer to any of these questions ends up at No 10, then the Prime Minister will be gone before the end of the tax year.Reuse content