Thursday, 28 May 2009

52 Lords not leaping

Martin Kettle has a curious little scoopette in this commentary piece which has also sees the Guardian columnist in unusual territory co-bylining a news report with Nicholas Watt.

{Update: the news report is in fact the front-page splash on Friday's Guardian}

In the clearest indication to date that increasing numbers of Labour figures believe the party is heading for a heavy defeat at the hands of David Cameron, the Guardian has learned that at least 52 MPs have formally approached Downing Street to be given places in the upper house.

The MPs include current chairs of select committees as well as past and serving middle and junior ranking ministers, according to Labour sources. They account for a seventh of those elected at the last election

The information is as curiously precise as it is lightly sourced. It has clearly not been generated by a ring-round of the backbenchers, to see how many will want to let The Guardian know about that.

It would seem that it could only come from somebody who is keeping a list of such requests - perhaps in Downing Street itself, or perhaps from somebody in the Whips Office who might have the ear of the premier.

It could be true. Or it could be black arts and misinformation. But whether true or false, what is entirely baffling is what the motive behind revealing it. The likely spin would be Labour MPs fear defeat and looking to bottle out.

Perhaps it can be read as reminding the backbenchers where the power of patronage lies - in the event that anybody is considering contributing to a headless chicken act on June 4th. (But perhaps not. As a threat, it depends on retaining the power of patronage, which could not provide inoculation in the actual event of a coup. Nor does that theory quite fit with the warning in the report that the desires for Ermine are unlikely to be met by the PM).

Another Labour figure said the keen interest in the Lords shown by the party's MPs highlighted how disconnected senior figures are from the prime minister.

"They should look at how many peers Gordon has created – he is no fan of the upper house," one former minister said.

Moreover, the recipient of the scoop is very much not a fan of the PM.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I admit I am baffled.

But the best way to prove that it is nonsense would be to include a swift move to an elected second chamber in the government's plans for restoring trust to politics.

(PS: Tom Harris has already posted on this, and is also sceptical, noting there he is not aware of any way to "formally apply" for the Lords. Unless its on a need-to-know basis and Tom has missed his Ermine fitting).


Charlie Marks said...

I wouldn't be surprised if this came from the top of New Labour.

Their mission was, after all, to destroy the party as a mass organisation of working people.

Having taken it over, they've succeeded in shedding its mass support, to the benefit of the super-rich and Tories - who are, as we all know, usually the same people...

Everyone is outraged about the expenses, but after the Iraq war we all know that the criminals won't be going to jail - they'll be going to get cushy jobs at investment banks...

RedThreads said...

'But the best way to prove that it is nonsense would be to include a swift move to an elected second chamber in the government's plans for restoring trust to politics.'

Perhaps that's your answer.