Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Now We Can Get Rid of the Gong Merchants

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Now We Can Get Rid of the Gong Merchants

Article excerpt


AS THE Met's investigation into the cash-forhonours scandal drags on, the public can surely be forgiven for yawning and snuggling down under a duvet stuffed with downy indifference.

The he-said-she-said between Ruth Turner and Lord Levy, and the creeping barrage of leaks, may not make it more materially difficult for the redoubtable Commander Yates to collar his man, woman, or men, but there's no doubt that all this spin is spinning things out insufferably.

More and more people will be thinking that it hardly matters whether Labour funded its 2005 election campaign off the back of flogging honours - after all, hasn't it always gone on?

Maybe so, but the way to stop this happening isn't just to clobber the gong retailers of today, it's to make such a ridiculous market impossible in the future.

Last night, the Commons debated the future of the Lords - and, unexpectedly, voted for an entirely elected upper chamber. The other proposals that were on offer, put forward by Jack Straw as Leader of the House, were widely felt to be a botched job, with a third of a new chamber elected, a third appointed by an "independent" body, and a third bumped up by the political parties.

Whether the Government will now respect the choice of MPs, given Tony Blair's bitter previous opposition to an elected Lords, is another matter.

Last night's vote will not pass into law, although it is supposed to inform the Government's next round of reform proposals. But make no mistake: no other arrangement will make it impossible to flog the ermine, or make the second chamber truly democratic.

"Aha!" the objectors say, "an elected chamber is all very well, but it would be stacked with career politicos and riven by partisan considerations that would thoroughly vitiate the sagacity and wisdom that the current lords so eminently display."

Now, hang on a minute - these are the very same lords, some of whom have allegedly bought their way in by dobbing up dosh for partisan war chests.

Others have no greater virtue than Daddy having been a coronet-jockey. Yet more are there because they are undoubtedly party political, but have never sullied themselves with the business of elections. …

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