THANKS to Jeremy Corbyn it could be fill-your-tiny-booties time for that bad prawn John Bercow.
The Labour leader gets to nominate a handful of new peers every year. The Tories, horrified by the way Bercow tried to stop Brexit when he was Speaker, had no intention of handing him the usual peerage. But Bercow had done Labour a lot of favours. It seems to be pay-back time.
For Bercow and his missus Sally, this could mean an extra £40,000 or so a year in Lords attendance money to go on top of the £1million pension pot he already bagged from his time as Speaker. Kerching!
The House of Lords today is as stinky a scandal as it was before Tony Blair kicked out most of the hereditary peers.
The dukes and marquesses may largely have gone but the people in their place are — unbelievably — even worse. At least the old aristocracy was suffused with a sense of public duty.
GREED AND HYPOCRISY
Today’s Lords is stuffed with failed politicians and there have been all too many examples of them acting improperly.
If they turn up for just five minutes they can claim more than £300 for that day’s “work”. If they’re feeling industrious, they can gum up the democratic works, be it on anything from fox-hunting to Brexit.
Then come the bad pennies — the peers who have been caught offering their services to lobbying firms. Ulster Unionist Lord Laird offered to arrange for parliamentary questions to be asked in return for £2,000 a month.
Lady Uddin was suspended for 18 months after wrongly claiming £125,000 for housing expenses. This newspaper also revealed Lord Sewel was caught up in a tricky video sniffing white powder with lightly-clad young women.
Well, you get the drift. The place attracts wrong-uns the way a pint of cider in the evening beer garden will attract wasps.
Some people are furious about the idea of Baron Bercow. They feel the insufferable little elf has already done quite enough damage to our public life.
But I think his elevation would be terrific for three reasons. Have I gone nuts? Hear me out.
FIRST, it would strip bare the greed and hypocrisy of Bercow and his mate Corbyn, who for so long scorned the Lords and everything it stood for.
Equally, Bercow presented himself as the doughty champion of the democratic will. Yet here he is now, all too ready to cavort in ermine robes and become one of our lawmakers without a single person (except Jeremy Corbyn) choosing him.
SECOND, London-based Bercow might well have to travel up to York if he wanted to claim his allowance because Boris Johnson is threatening to move the Upper House to York while Westminster undergoes repairs.
Bercow recently made the taxpayer shell out £1,000 to transport him by taxi from London to Nottingham. Now he might actually have to use public transport and take a train to Yorkshire. If Boris goes ahead with moving the Lords to York, I bet there won’t be many of them making the journey every week.
The THIRD reason for welcoming a Bercow peerage is the strongest.
And it is this: Such a politically tone-deaf selection would make the House of Lords even less popular.
In fact, it could become the moment that the British public, recoiling from such a grotesque abuse of power, might say “enough!” and support the abolition of the corrupt, out-of-date, over-stuffed House of Lords.
Some days there are so many of them in their gilded chamber that they spill over from the benches and have to sit on the steps of the Throne. And what gargoyles we find there, such a parade of greasers and failures and rejects and suck-ups.
Do we not need a revising chamber in Parliament? Maybe. But we don’t need this lot. In the 21st century such a body needs to be smaller and probably needs to be elected.
Giving such a Life Peerage to such a festering gumboil as Bercow would be a “queer as Queen Dick’s hatband” moment. Before gay rights supporters accuse me of hate speech, I’d better explain that unusual expression.
In 1658, Oliver Cromwell died. Cromwell was the Lord Protector who toppled Charles I and established the parliamentary common-wealth. He did so in the name of meritocracy.
To him, the hereditary power of royalty was an affront to democratic power. But what happened on his death? His useless son Richard became Lord Protector!
The people of England saw through the absurdity of this anti-monarchist being succeeded on the nod by his son. They nicknamed Richard Cromwell “Queen Dick”.
The word “hatband” was another way of saying “crown”. Public mockery helped to ensure that Richard Cromwell lasted on his republican throne for less than a year.
One of the latest mini scandals at the Lords at present concerns a former trade unionist called Lord Lea of Crondall.
He has been accused not only of sexual harassment but also of swearing at officials on a freebie (sorry, fact-finding trip) to Africa.
When criticised for his conduct, Lea allegedly told an underling: “You are not in a position to tell me what to do — it is for me to tell you what to do.”
That, I’m afraid, is the high-and-mighty attitude of all too many peers and of the political elite they embody.
John Bercow, a didactic foot-stamper, would be well at home among them. The sooner he goes there, the sooner we can demolish the whole rotten edifice.