Is the Lords beyond redemption?

Allegations of corruption as new peer gives Tories £500,000

With the Prime Minister apparently oblivious to or unconcerned by the multiple allegations of sleaze, cronyism and corruption levelled against him and his closest ministerial buddies, it came as no surprise when Boris Johnson defied the advice and objections of the watchdog body for appointments to the Lords in giving former Conservative Party co-treasurer, Peter Cruddas, a seat in the Upper House. And when the new Lord Cruddas gifted the Conservative Party half a million quid just three days after taking his seat, it was also unsurprising. After all, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist has given the Tories around £3m since 2010.

The Lords Appointment Commission had raised “historic concerns” over 2012 allegations that Cruddas was offering access to then prime minister, David Cameron, in exchange for donations to the party. Cruddas resigned his position back then, but the newly appointed Lord Cruddas denies any wrongdoing with his most recent donation, claiming it was “definitely not true” that there was any link between the donation and his receipt of a life peerage. “That would be corruption,” he added, “and that’s definitely not the case.” However, the Good Law Project, which has previously brought judicial review cases against the government over the award of contracts during the pandemic, has said it intends to challenge the appointment in the courts.

Since taking office in July 2019, Johnson has appointed 79 new peers, almost double the number Theresa May created. Of the seventeen created in the last round, eight were Conservatives, with five Labour, and four Crossbenchers. The PM has already given seats to, among others, his own brother and to the son of a Russian oligarch and former KGB agent.

This time around there were peerages for ex-colleagues of Johnson’s from his time at The Daily Telegraph. Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker, is amongst many to criticise the ever-increasing number of additions to the House of Lords.

The most recent appointments, including the controversial Lord Cruddas, have taken the size of the Upper House to more than 830, despite a cross-party agreement three years ago that numbers should be reduced over time to 600. It means that more than ten lords will be “a-leapin’” in some future sessions, because when everyone turns up there certainly won’t be room enough for them all to sit down.

What our surveys show

Our first poll was taken just before the news broke that Boris Johnson’s appointment of Peter Cruddas to the Lords was being challenged in the courts by the Good Law Project. Even so, it shows that faith in the integrity of the Lords is at an all-time low, with 66% of those surveyed expressing little or no confidence in the Upper Chamber. Just 17% said they had a fair amount of confidence in the Lords while a miniscule 1% reckoned their confidence remained high. A further 16% said they don’t know.

An overwhelming majority of 74% considered it was improper of the Prime Minister to appoint Peter Cruddas to the Lords three days before receiving a £500,000 donation from him, while a tiny 6% considered it proper. This time 20% said they don’t know.

And most of us reckon the time has come for big change, with 31% thinking the Lords should be replaced by a fully or partially elected chamber and 25% believing it should be abolished altogether. Only 11% think we should keep the status quo, while 7% want something else, although they don’t know what, and 26% don’t know at all.

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