The House of Lords has received a lot of attention in the past few weeks as a result of the Government’s House of Lords Reform Bill. I am almost tempted to ask as a quiz question if anyone can identify a newspaper (or even television) story about the House of Lords that has not been illustrated by a picture of the State Opening of Parliament. One of the things that peers find intensely irritating is the use of pictures of us in robes at State Opening, as if this is a picture of the House of Lords as it normally operates. Virtually no story has been accompanied by a picture of the House in action.
Indeed, two newspapers have even gone so far as to accompany stories about the House of Lords with pictures of senior judges attending State Opening. State Opening is attended not only by members of both Houses, but also by members of the judiciary and members of the Diplomatic Corps. The judges are distinctive because they wear wigs. Peers do not wear wigs – even the law lords did not wear wigs. (Though members of the Supreme Court have now their own robes, they do no wear wigs; when they were law lords, they did not have judicial robes – they wore ermine the same as other peers.)
I am not sure whether the answer is to alter radically State Opening – at least dispensing with peers wearing robes – or to persuade the media that they should educate rather go for the colourful.