The country, having killed off Gordon Brown’s government, finds itself left with a legacy. A parting gift to the country. Gordon Brown has bequeathed us John Leslie Prescott, who made a point at the weekend of saying that he was entering the Lords expressly to block reform.
Last week there was much huffing and puffing on the Labour benches about the prospect of more Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers being appointed. It was a constitutional outrage. It was gerrymandering. It was “stuffing the House”. All of that. I wonder, though, which of their new Labour colleagues the old guard would dispense with? There are plenty to choose from, since 29 of the 56 appointees are Labour – 52% of the total.
For my own part, I had some sympathy with the huffers and puffers but for different reasons. The appointments, however estimable the individuals, enlarge the already absurdly bulbous membership of the House. It presently stands at 707. Soon it will be 763. How long before we reach 800? How long before we reach 1000? It will soon feel more like the Athenian Pynx than a Senate.
I think it is a mistake to appoint more Life Peers when our key objective must be reducing patronage in our political system and replacing it with true democracy. When I came to the House in 2005, I made it clear that I was coming as a turkey – ready, willing and eager to vote for Christmas. And so it has been – as regular readers know, reforming the House has been the bread and butter of my campaigning ever since.
Not so the new intake. An embarrassment of Johns. Alongside Prescott are Hutton, McFall and Reid. All voted for an all-appointed House of Lords when they were in the Commons in 2007. All stood on manifestos pledging reform; all broke their promises. How depressing.
More Peers appointed for life means more well-meaning people worrying that we should just think a little longer, and a little harder, and search a little more for that ever-elusive “consensus” on reform before doing anything about it.
I only hope that the Coalition will ignore the professional procrastinators. Ministers must now get on with introducing legislation on reform, so we can finally dispense with all the Jurassic Johns’ services, and let the public choose who sits in the second chamber.