Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

It is never a good idea for a government to look stupid: least of all now. Yet that is what is happening over Lords reform. Nick Clegg wanted to wreck our currency. He failed. Then he wanted to wreck the voting system:

another failure. He has now transferred his wrecking petulance to the House of Lords. He must not be indulged. Damage has already been done. Back in 1997, with heredity constantly reinvigorated by experience and expertise, the Lords worked well. A skilful revising chamber, it could force the Commons to think again, without challenging the supremacy of the elected house. The upper house could defy the government, but only when public opinion was firmly on its side.

The hereditaries ensured that land and history had a voice, which lefties hated.

So what: this is an old country, and land matters. The pre-1997 Lords went about its business with wit, grace, charm and professionalism, plus occasional spikes of eccentricity. One day, after lunch, the Viscount Massereene and Ferrard arrived in the Chamber, sat down, and fell asleep. Their lordships were discussing the problems created by what we are now supposed to call the travelling community.

Michael Onslow was vehement, so much so that Jock Massereene woke up. 'Wha. . .

what's goin' on?' 'Don't worry, Jock, ' said Charles, Baron Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton: the Premier Baron of England.

'It's just Onslow's got tinkers.' 'Dear God:

hope they're not catchin' .' If that does not endear you to the old house, you are a chippy, thin-lipped New Labour peeress with a radical humourectomy. Or you are Nick Clegg.

Chippiness leads on to Rupert Murdoch. News International behaved surprisingly well during the Jubilee celebrations, partly because Rupert still fears his mother's wrath and she is an indomitable monarchist. But the Murdoch press has made up for it since, with a slug's-slime trail of snidery and bitchiness about the royal family. There was an especially vile piece a couple of weeks ago, about the Cambridges, by Robert Crampton. Whatever the proprietor's other alleged improprieties, that alone would justify transporting him, plus James Murdoch, the family's Saif-alIslam. There is a tale which provides some insight into the pathology of chippiness.

In the early Eighties, the Financial Times decided to sell a house in Lord North Street formerely used by its chairmen. The asking price was £165,000. Jonathan Aitken thought that was reasonable; offered it; the deal was clinched. …

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