Saturday, 19 May 2018

Names of the "royal wedding peers" have emerged

The Guardian has published the names of the peers whom Theresa May has appointed in the midst of the brouhaha about a certain love match in Windsor. The Liberal Democrats have already protested this apparent reverse spin and have wisely not taken up the single peerage which was on offer. These additional appointments push the Lords roster towards the 800 mark at a time when the Conservatives are still intent on reducing the elected membership in the Commons by fifty.

One name leaps out as that of a Brexit fanatic: Sir Peter Lilley. Of the other ex-MPs, Sir Edward Garnier was a declared Remainer, Sir Eric Pickles a Eurosceptic, Sir John Randall not known but as a supporter of David Cameron probably a Remainer, Sir Alan Haselhurst a Remainer and Sir Andrew Tyrie a Remainer. So Remainers just out-weigh Leavers; perhaps Mrs May was attempting to slip the appointments past the Brexiteers, who will no doubt have been absorbed by all things English royal family over the last few days. They would be consoled by a DUP appointment, that of William McCrea who has been criticised in the past for being soft on unionist paramilitaries.

The three Labour appointees repay service to the party but include one person accused of tolerating anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn.

The appointment of Sir Andrew should be welcomed. His was a rare voice of reason over financial matters on the Conservative benches and in my opinion retired too soon from the Commons. Perhaps he was persuaded to go, with the promise of a barony as a sweetener, by an administration whose budgets he frequently criticised from his position as chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.

Diana Barran, as recently retired CEO of SafeLives, which seeks to end domestic abuse, is another worthy appointment as is that of Catherine Meyer, the founder of Action Against Abduction. One notes that Sir John Randall is Vice-Chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation, so liberal causes are well represented.

The fact remains that the House of Lords is now far too large because the system of appointments has been misused by successive governments. It could all have been so different if the Lords Reform Bill had been allowed to proceed in 2012. It received overwhelming support at Second Reading, including a majority of Conservative MPs, and all that was needed was agreement to a programme motion to prevent the Bill being talked out by the reactionaries (on either side of the House!). However, the then leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband opposed this and would not discuss any alternative to Nick Clegg's proposed timetable. It is typical of Labour hypocrisy that they are now spreading the story that it was the Conservatives who blocked Lords reform.

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