Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tony's Cronies to Give Labour Lords Majority; Blair Risks Row as Army of Retiring MPs Are Made Peers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tony's Cronies to Give Labour Lords Majority; Blair Risks Row as Army of Retiring MPs Are Made Peers

Article excerpt


TONY BLAIR will court further controversy tomorrow by promoting more than a dozen "cronies" to the House of Lords.

About 16 retiring Labour MPs will be made peers, ranging from former Cabinet allies such as Chris Smith to backbenchers who gave up their seats so that loyalists could be parachuted into the Commons.

The changes will make history by turning Labour into the biggest party in the Lords for the first time, ending decades in which the Conservatives held the most seats.

The move is bound to provoke further controversy over the Prime Minister's habit of planting supporters and rewarding favours.

Among the list is Dennis Turner, who stepped down from the Commons just before this election to allow Pat McFadden, a No 10 aide, to be installed as candidate in Labour's Wolverhampton South East stronghold.

Another is Lewis Moonie, who gave up his Commons career so that Gordon Brown would be safe following a carve up of parliamentary boundaries. Their seats were merged in a Scottish review and his resignation gave the Chancellor a clear run.

Estelle Morris, the former education secretary who quit after admitting she was not up to the job, also gets to don ermine, as does Alan Howarth, the onetime Conservative minister who defected to Labour in 1995.

The Conservatives have been given five new peers in the list - which, to their annoyance, is the same number given to the Liberal Democrats.

Michael Howard has chosen Tory grandees who have all held high office.

He picked four former senior ministers from the Major years - ex health secretary Virginia Bottomley, former transport secretary Sir Brian Mawhinney, former education secretary Gillian Shephard and former Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyell. The fifth choice is Sir Archie Hamilton, the veteran former chairman of the Conservatives' backbench 1922 Committee.

Charles Kennedy selected a mixed range of former MPs from his slimmer ranks.

They were Jenny Tonge, the retiring Richmond Park MP who became controversial for sympathising with Palestinian suicide bombers, Nigel Jones, the backbencher who was almost killed by a sword-wielding maniac, and veteran campaigners-Paul Tyler, Sir Archy Kirkwood and David Chidgey.

Gordon Brown was dealt a fresh blow today by a major report claiming he has broken his fiscal rules and will have to raise taxes by at least [pounds sterling]7 billion a year. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said the latest government figures suggest the Golden Rule - to borrow only to invest over the economic cycle - has been breached. …

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