“Nick Clegg changes his tune on House of Lords” the headline read. When I first saw it, I was stunned: had Nick really given himself a peerage? Given he had said he wouldn’t, I suppose I could see why the Mail would feel entitled to have a go.
But alas, the content of the story was this: the Lib Dems are getting a few peerages in the dissolution honours. If you’re puzzled as to why something everyone knew was going to happen qualified as news, or indeed what the “changing of the tune” was in substance it came down to this: because Nick wanted to make the Lords an elected Senate, he shouldn’t be entitled to appoint anyone to said upper chamber by association. Or so says the Daily Mail.
Where do I start? So by the Mail’s logic the Lib Dems shouldn’t participate in one of the two Houses of government because it wishes to change it. Thinking about this a little more, the Liberal Democrats want to change the voting system in the House of Commons; so using the Mail’s logic, shouldn’t the Lib Dems shun any election run under First Past the Post? Having said that, I’m sure most Daily Mail readers wouldn’t be overly upset should such a thing come to pass.
The Lib Dems don’t like the current set up in the Upper House and tried to change things. Labour and the Tories didn’t agree. That’s fine; that’s representative democracy. But wanting to change the system cannot mean you are barred from it from then on. That would be a bit Kim Yong-Un-esque.
And let us remind ourselves of what that system actually entails, shall we? The Mail article on Clegg takes umbrage with the fact that the people he’s giving peerages to appear to be his “chums”. Um, guys, that’s what the House of Lords IS. Party leaders, every so often, get to dish out patronage to their mates. Yes, it’s kind of weird way to run a legislature. But let’s remind ourselves again: Clegg wanted to change the system, the Daily Mail explicitly did not. So them complaining about party leaders doling out peerages to friends is a bit rich. If that particular newspaper wants to start a concerted campaign to either change or abolish the Upper House, then and only then can they complain about the current system being used by someone exactly as it was intended.
I suppose I should look at the article and have pity on the Mail – with Clegg on the backbenches, who will be their new whipping boy? Step forward, Andy Burnham. Actually, pity rescinded: that newspaper is about to enter a golden era under the next Labour leader.