THE HOARY OLD CHESTNUT

There is a certain amount of controversy surrounding the upper, or second, chamber of the Houses of Parliament, and I refer of course to the House of Lords.

As names go, experience tells me to proceed with care for fear of incurring the wrath of the minority lobbies, who can be vocal, strident and at times positively intransigent when protecting the best interests of their supporters.  I refer to the Feminists and the Transgenders, who normally have more than enough to say on anything and everything.  Imagine my surprise therefore during the current debate on the composition of the House of Lords and efforts to control its numbers that all the usual suspects are mute, whether of malice or by visitation of God, who can say.

Before going on to the meat and potatoes of the debate, let’s dwell for a moment on the cabbage.  Has the time come when it is politically incorrect to refer to the House of Lords as the House of Lords?  With this in mind, may I suggest a way out that should please almost all: call it the House of Peers.  An excellent suggestion I hear you cry, so let’s move on.

The debate is predominantly about numbers, how to reduce them and how to make the House of Lords manageable.  There are approximately 850 peers, with work for 250 being done by 100.  So as a legislative chamber, it is grossly overmanned and hugely inefficient.

In addition, the vast majority of those elevated to the peerage know little or nothing about affairs of state, and care even less. When accepting a peerage, their first consideration is getting to the front of the queue when booking a table at the Gavroche, and scooping up the £300 a day attendance allowance when the bank balance needs an injection of funds.

So I suggest we model reform of the Lords along the lines of a gentlemen’s club, or should that be a gentlepersons’ club?  Club members enjoy the facilities but are rarely asked to take part in the administration, and besides, they wouldn’t want to do so.

Let the great and the good continue nominating their favourites for a peerage, which will enable its recipients to use the appropriate title and the bar and dining room. They will not be admitted to the debating chamber, and will therefore not be permitted to speak.  And most important of all, they will not be permitted to draw an attendance allowance, thereby saving the hard pressed taxpayer several millions each year, and removing the temptation of those who might otherwise claim to lie through their teeth.

Job done!

THE AXEMAN COMETH

The recent scandal involving peers of the realm allegedly with their snouts in the trough, nothing new there, raises yet again the debate about a second chamber and the pathetic efforts so far to reform it.

Time to grasp the nettle and think the unthinkable. For many years my wife harboured the forlorn hope of becoming Lady Osborne, and so, ever the one to please her, I considered the various options. After a rigorous process of elimination, I opted for the ‘cash for honours’ route. I was the soul of discretion as I showered my chosen political party with wodges of hot sweaty money in large brown envelopes handed over in dark alleyways, but sadly, my chosen political party lost the 1997 election in a mire of sleaze, and without a receipt to my name, I became the forgotten man.

With my ‘slush fund’ badly depleted, I was cast adrift, and my tentative overtures to the party in power to rebuild my credibility were rebuffed. Call me the Vicar of Bray if you will, but actions speak louder than words, and there were others ahead of me in the queue with stronger claims than mine.

But don’t get me wrong. My desire to reform the House of Lords is not born of malice or any sense of injustice. Think of me if you will as an Olympian with nothing more than altruistic motives and a burning wish to serve my fellow human beings, or certainly those less fortunate than myself.

So here follows Osborne’s manifesto for the greater good:

  1. Abolish the House of Lords – full stop!

  1. Repeal the Life Peerages Act 1958 and divest all life peers of their titles with immediate effect, whether they be ‘troughers’, ‘trouserers’, criminals or any combination of the three.

  1. Let the judges serving on the new Supreme Court retain their titles, and besides, where would we be without the likes of Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers? Now that’s what I call a title! At least their lordships sitting in loc judiciaris can be seen to be doing something useful from time to time.

  1. Adopt the Roman and American bi-cameral system, and replace the House of Lords with an elected Senate. In keeping with its Latin meaning ‘House of Elders’, there must be a minimum age qualification, I suggest fifty, to keep out pimply youths, and as with the House of Commons, there should be no compulsory retirement age. Let the people decide if any particular candidate is past his or her sell by date.

  1. Candidates for both Houses would stand for election in the same way as do Members of Parliament, at least once every five years. It should not be beyond the whit of the common herd to put an X in two boxes instead of just one.

The rest is simply fine tuning, and I leave that to the pencil pushers in the public sector, who know more about ‘troughing’ and ‘trousering’ than we could ever learn in a lifetime of regret.

Brilliant or what!?! And who knows, there might be a peerage in it for me, and Lady Osborne can at last hold up her head in polite society.