Labour Anger at the Cronies of King Tony; Premier's New Lords Are 'Turning the Clock Back 500 Years'

Daily Mail (London), April 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Labour Anger at the Cronies of King Tony; Premier's New Lords Are 'Turning the Clock Back 500 Years'


Byline: PAUL EASTHAM

TONY BLAIR was accused by his own MPs last night of acting like a medieval king as he 'stuffs' the House of Lords with his placemen.

Senior figures from across the party said the Prime Minister's appointment of 20 Labour working peers on Wednesday gave an ominous signal that he wanted to 'nominate everybody' serving in political office.

Former Commons ally Tony Wright called it 'nonsense' for Mr Blair to use honours to pack the Lords when he had promised to 'clean up' the whole system.

Tony Benn denounced the move as a 'throwback 500 years to when the king nominated all the peers'.

Veteran Left-winger Mr Benn declared: 'I really feel that democracy is under threat in Britain.' Their comments highlight the fears of many of their fellow MPs that Mr KINGS and queens have used patronage to bolster their power throughout history.

But the practice escalated with the creation of the Houses of Parliament in the 13th century.

By the time Henry VII was on the throne in 1500 it was well established, monarchs providing titles in return for support, and often a payment.

When James I moved from Scotland to England in 1603, his Blair is shelving his election pledge to create a more accountable and democratic House of Lords.

As Labour took the lion's share of the 33 new 'working' peerages, Mr Wright, chairman of the powerful all-party constitutional and parliamentary affairs committee, told BBC Radio 4: 'What it shows is the nonsense of having a second chamber linked to an honours system.

'What these people want are gongs. They don't want to serve in a going rate for an earldom - usually going to a Scottish crony - was [pounds sterling]6,000. …

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