The recent days have seen the national focus pulled onto the House of Lords through the public row between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson over the latter’s resignation honours list.
While the spat has provided high political drama it has also shown how low our constitutional politics has sunk. The varying accounts of what Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak agreed over the honours list have pulled back the curtain on the grubby horse-trading that goes on around choosing who sits in the upper chamber.
Yet, the impact of this list will last long after the melodrama between the Prime Minister and his predecessor has subsided. For instance, each of the seven new peers has been handed a job-for-life in parliament, which means potentially decades of influence legislating for the public, with which most have had little meaningful contact.
The most partisan ennobler of modern history
This final honours list of Boris Johnson’s has also shown how he has been the most partisan ennobler of modern history. Around 60 per cent of the new peers he has sent to the Lords have been from his own party, according to research from the ERS. This compares to around 50 per cent for the prime ministers going back to Tony Blair, when the Lords was created in its current incarnation.
This trend puts paid to the specious arguments advanced by defenders of the current Lords: that is a body of impartial experts to complement the more political Commons. New peers are often political appointments, and increasingly so under Mr Johnson’s tenure. Even when the get to the Lords, party peers tend to vote overwhelmingly with their party whips.
The overall impact of this latest squalid episode is that it only serves to damage the public’s trust in parliament and democracy. The wider optics are of a political class using the upper house of parliament to reward itself no matter what scandals or failures its recipients have been party to.
This only serves to highlight how remote and out-of-touch Westminster is from the lives of ordinary people of this country.
The row over Mr Johnson’s resignation lists highlights why it should be the last. It is time to scrap the unelected Lords, which has become a weeping sore on our politics. In its place, we need a new elected chamber where the people of this country, and not former prime ministers, decide who makes the laws we all live under.
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