A majority of people oppose Boris Johnson’s plans to pack the Lords with new peers

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 16th August 2022

Our new polling has found that the majority of people (54%) oppose Boris Johnson’s plans to pack the Lords with new peers just weeks before he leaves office.

Some prime ministers appoint a group of their supporters to the House of Lords for life when they resign. Often these are given as rewards to former advisors and political staff who stuck by them, and they are rarely without controversy, from Harold Wilson’s ‘Lavender list’ to Cameron and May’s substantial lists of political aides and allies.

Each new peer created gets a lifelong right to sit in parliament. This means potentially decades of influence over our laws, a tax-free income from the public purse and, even if they never vote in the chamber, an access-all-areas pass to the corridors of power. How they are chosen matters.

As with all lifetime appointments to the House of Lords, the public has no say on who should join the chamber. So we commissioned the polling company Opinium to find out the public’s position on Boris Johnson’s resignation honours plans.

The polling revealed that just 13% actively support the Prime Minister’s plans to appoint new peers. Even amongst 2019 Conservative voters just 21% support Johnson making new appointments with 41% against.

A majority of the public (54%) oppose Prime Ministers stuffing the Lords with friends and donors as they head for the exit door.

The results come amid reports that Mr Johnson is set to announce not one but two lists of appointments in his final weeks in office – adding yet more peers to the already oversized house of Lords.

At over 800 members the Lords is already bursting at the seams, and with more peerages planned it is clear we cannot simply rely on the restraint of individual prime ministers to slim down our bloated second chamber.

Mr Johnson’s planned appointments will likely take the number of new peers created during his premiership to over 100 – over double that made by May during her time in office.

Opposition is growing to this bumper list of new appointments within Parliament too. The Lord Speaker, Lord McFall, warned that Johnson’s attempts to flood the Lords with dozens of new members risks undermining “public confidence in our parliamentary system”. With public support for the House of Lords already at a low level, appoints such as these make our case for reform for us.

McFall has written to the two Conservative Leadership candidates urging them to show restraint when it comes to appointments to the upper house in order to bring the chamber down to a more manageable size. But the idea of making a smaller chamber via the restraint of the prime minister has already failed. The Burns report’s suggestion of two-out-one-in just about survived Theresa May’s premiership, but collapsed in the face of Boris Johnson’s desire to get his legislation through the chamber.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t be at the prime minister’s whim to decide who makes and scrutinises our laws. It’s time to end this system of unchecked political patronage and ensure all our lawmakers are elected by the people they serve.

This is why we need to urgently reform the system so there are meaningful checks and balances governing who sits in the Lords.

Add your name to our call for an elected House of Lords

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