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Corruption in the House of Lords appointment process

Mike McCartney

12th January 2021

A couple of quite good articles to consider when looking at the old chestnut of reform of the upper chamber

The appointments process has been tainted by allegations of sleaze and corruption for as long as anyone can remember.

For example, during the Blair premiership the ‘Cash for honours’ debacle in the mid noughties demonstrated in Technicolor that the appointments process is corrupt. There have also been accusations that political favours can be bought from our MPs with a promise in the Lords, e.g. in the Brown era, so just a couple of years after the cash for honours scandal, Keith Vaz was said to have had the prospect of being draped in ermine dangled in front of him on the eve of the 42 day detention vote in the Commons. So it is argued that only a fully elected chamber will ensure that what Billy Bragg once called the ‘stench of impropriety’ can be cleared from the air.

Which brings us to the recent round of appointments.

As the Guardian states:

'Almost a quarter of peerages awarded this year have been to Conservative party donors, close associates or former colleagues of Boris Johnson, according to analysis by the Guardian, which raises fresh concerns about cronyism.'

It then goes on to say:

'The Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which wants an elected second chamber, said the appointments gave the impression prime ministers were “able to appoint donors and allies on a whim – and in unlimited numbers”. This year’s peerages have taken the total size of the Lords to more than 830, despite a cross-party agreement three years ago that numbers should over time be reduced to 600.

Willie Sullivan, a senior director at the ERS, said: “The Lords was already packed to the brim with donors and party loyalists, but this past year has seen a bad situation get even worse.

“It would be tempting to call cronyism in the Lords an abuse of the system, but the system itself is fundamentally broken. This situation cannot go on. Public trust is at rock bottom.”

See the full article here, which also contains quite a nice graphic:

We then have a related article by Ian Birrell in the Independent. With reference to the betting tycoon Peter Cruddas, he says: 'It is bad enough that he is a major Tory donor; we have become sadly inured in Britain’s soiled political system to seeing rich people buy themselves posh titles and lifetime berths in parliament. But this is a man who during his brief stint as Tory party treasurer was caught by undercover journalists peddling political influence and selling access to a previous prime minister. Johnson has rewarded him, despite these corrupt practices, with a seat in the House of Lords in defiance of concerns from the Lords Appointments Commission.'

See the full article here:

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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