A former MP who abused parliamentary expenses to clean his moat was among 26 Tory politicians and aides nominated for peerages in the dissolution honours on Thursday.
Douglas Hogg’s £2,200 claim captured the absurdity of the expenses scandal back in 2009, a sore spot between the public and Westminster to this day, and has already been branded “Lord Moat” by much of Fleet Street.
The 26 nominees from the Tories eclipsed those put forward by Labour and the Lib Dems, who combined have nominated only 19 peers.
The move by prime minister David Cameron is thought to be an effort to boost Tory numbers in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives do not have a majority.
But Meg Russell, of the constitution unit at University College London (UCL), told the BBC that the move was “inefficient” and “expensive”, whilst others have suggested the number of peers be reduced to make the editorial upper chamber more representative of the party balance in the Commons.
Taking to Twitter to protest, shadow leader of the House of Lords and former Labour MP Angela Smith said:
@LadyBasildon: ‘When Cameron talks about ‘the will of the people’ re: need for more Peers, he clearly means ‘the will of the Tory Party’
— LabourLordsUK (@LabourLordsUK) August 27, 2015
Paul Goodman, Conservative MP for Wycombe, also criticized the list online for failing to act on a manifesto pledge recognizing that “a cull is needed”, adding that House of Lords legitimacy was “hard to defend in an age that stresses democratic accountability.”
Other suspicious nominations include Michelle Mone, lingerie-model turned entrepreneur, who was recently chosen by the government to review how best to encourage startups in areas of high unemployment.
The furore has also already resurrected arguments about abolishing the House of Lords.
Kirsty Blackman, Scottish National Party (SNP) spokesperson on the House of Lords, denounced the dissolution honours as an “affront to democracy”, criticizing a system whereby disgraced MPs can “legislate for the rest of their lives without ever having to be accountable.”
The SNP don’t sit in the House of Lords, deeming it undemocratic.
Abolishing the Lords could have wider implications for abolishing the aristocracy and the royal family. A recent poll for YouGov revealed that many people want to see the royal family reduced, despite a 2012 Guardian/ICM poll showing that the Queen’s approval rating was at an all time high.
Image Credit – House of Lords by Erin Kirk-Cuomo