- Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, Monday 17th August 2020.
Democracy campaigners have reacted with outrage to reports that the Prime Minister is pushing ahead with plans for a ‘donors list’ – giving those who’ve funded the Conservatives ‘votes on our laws for life’ in the second chamber .
Both Private Eye and The Telegraph cite No 10 sources in reporting that donors – including those that have already been rejected by the toothless House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) – will be handed seats in the Lords in the coming months. It follows the ‘cronyistic’ move to pack the chamber with 36 peers at the end of July. The Lords now has over 800 members, making it the largest upper house in the world.
The reports come after damning new expenses revelations in the second chamber , while 400,000 people have signed an ERS petition calling for the Lords to be scrapped and replaced with a far smaller, PR-elected house.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“Not satisfied with appointing several party donors in the latest round of peerages, the Prime Minister looks set to pack the chamber with even more funders. To the public, this stinks.
“For voters, this has all the elements of a cash-for-peerages scandal. It is simply unacceptable in a democracy for party donors to be handed votes on our laws for life.
“The unelected Lords is already unfit for purpose. If more donors are handed seats for life, this marks the end of any pretence that it is an independent revising chamber. It is a corrupting influence at the heart of Westminster, and Prime Ministers simply cannot help themselves.
“It is now urgent – for the sake of our democracy – that we move to a proportionally-elected revising chamber, where there can be no whiff of cronyism or cash-for-seats. Voters must decide who votes on our laws. As it stands, these plans for a ‘donors list’ are an outrage and must be stopped while parties bring back plans for real reform of the unelected house.”
Notes to Editors
 The latest Private Eye reports: “No 10 is briefing hacks that the PM will ‘sort out’ the House of Lords Appointments Commission…before proceeding with a ‘second wave’ of perages this autumn – mainly (though not exclusively) for ‘the donors’.” The publication says it includes Conservative donors Johnny Leavesley and Peter Cruddas.
“Over the next few years we can expect many more Tory donors to be ennobled” following the appointment of donors Michael Spencer and Aamer Sarfraz.
The Telegraph reports on plans for a ‘donors list’: “Mr Johnson has committed to a second list of peerages after several financial backers failed to make the list including Peter Cruddas and Johnny Leavesley, as well as former Tory MEP Dan Hannan…
“[Tom] Watson was reportedly blocked for a peerage earlier this year because of he had raised repeatedly concerns about child abuse by the convicted fantasist.
“However Mr Watson’s allies point out that Lord Goldsmith of Richmond, as Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond Park made similar claims about a guest house in Barnes, south west London in 2014, and yet was made a peer within days of losing his seat as an MP last December.
“One source says: “Tom has been assuaged from any concerns. They will put him forward and the argument will be made that there are people who have got into the Lords who have equally blemished records.””
See also: New ERS research on the background of the 36 new Lords: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/report-new-lords-appointments-exacerbate-the-grossly-warped-backgrounds-of-peers/