David Blackburn

Ironically, Cameron can only deconstruct the state by manipulating central patronage

Ironically, Cameron can only deconstruct the state by manipulating central patronage
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If it remains a mystery that, 12 years after describing the House of Lords as an “affront to democracy”, Labour have not attempted wholesale reform, then look no further than the fact that Labour is the largest party in the upper chamber. As Ben Brogan notes, this causes Cameron a problem:

‘For the first time, a Conservative leader faces coming to power with an Upper House that will not reflect the outcome of the election. All those People's Peers created by Mr Blair have made Labour the biggest party on the red benches, with 213 to the Tories' 192. Add in 71 Lib Dems, and the unpredictability of 183 crossbenchers, and you see why Mr Cameron must as a matter of urgency redress the balance, or endure seeing his programme stymied by a Labour rearguard action.

Tory sources talk of 30 to 40 new peers to be created in short order, which explains the accelerating Establishment stampede to catch up with the Cameron bandwagon. Baubles remain a potent inducement, and the Tories know it. Particular attention is being paid to sitting MPs who might be suitable for a ministerial job in the Lords. The Tory front bench there is in need of bolstering in order to cope with the drudge of government. While those caught dredging their moats cannot hope for the consolation of ermine, a list of candidates is being quietly drawn up. I'm told that the names circulating include James Paice, Keith Simpson, Tim Yeo and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. All could be asked to exit the Commons at short notice before polling day, giving Mr Cameron another clutch of seats to distribute.’

Cameron needs to implement his agenda immediately, and he cannot risk of being sabotaged. Reform of the House of Lords is not a Tory priority. It should be: Blair’s compulsion to ennoble 5 tennis partners before breakfast was worthy of the era of George III. However, reform of the upper house cannot be rushed, and Cameron’s radical agenda cannot afford to wait. As Alex points out, the irony is that Cameron wants to decentralise and promote accountability and transparency, but to realise that ambition he will have to resort to the ‘old corruption’.