LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain's upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, has increased in size once again after the Prime Minister appointed another raft of “cronies” to it. David Cameron was accused of packing the House after he appointed 45 new peers in one go, including 26 former Conservative ministers and aides.
Historically Peerages (i.e. seats in the House of Lords) were created very rarely because they were passed down from father to son. The system had developed from when each Peer ruled over a particularly town or county and this left the House of Lords will a spread of people from across the country.
In 1958 the Life Peerages Act reformed the Lords by allowing HM The Queen to appoint peers for life, meaning the seat was not inherited by the holders eldest child (and instead died with them). In theory this gives the government, and therefore the Prime Minister the power to appoint his supporters without worrying that the Lords will be swollen in size forever.
In reality the rate at which older life peers are dying is not keeping pace with the rate at which more people are being given seats. This has made the House of Lords the second largest Parliamentary chamber in the world, only beaten by the National People's Congress in China.
The people being appointed are also from a narrow cross section of the country, namely the political class. This time they included former MP Douglas Hogg, who was widely seen as a symbol of the 2009 Parliamentary expenses scandal, after he made the taxpayer folk out for the cleaning of the moat at his country pile.
There were 11 seats for the Liberal Democrat Party, despite them winning just eight seats in the House of Commons at the last election. This means they have 101 members of the House of Lords, vastly out of proportion with the number of people who actually vote for them.
The big loser this week was the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), who got nearly four million votes at the election but only won one House of Commons seat. There had been pressure to give them some seats in the House of Lords to make things fairer for them, but in the end the government chose not to. This leaves them with just three members of the House of Lords, all of whom defected from the Conservatives.
Lord Pearson, UKIPs leader in the Lords, said: "In 2014, UKIP won the European Elections, with 4.5 million voting for us. This year almost 4 million voted for us and made us the third largest party by vote share.
“Instead of recognizing this fact Cameron has shown that he has an almost 18th Century attitude to the patronage at his fingertips. Awarding friends, rewarding allies rather than trying to reflect the opinions of his countrymen. Despite increasing electoral support in the country, UKIP has never been awarded a single peerage, a constitutional anomaly that must be ended.
"It is clear that the Prime Minister has no interest whatsoever in a fair representation of the people. To that end I am tabling a motion demanding that the situation be debated fully before a single new Lib Dem peer is presented to the House. "
The political sketch writer Quentin Letts was even more savage, described the newly appointed peers as a “mixture of time-servers, leaders’ mates [and] downright dregs”. He continued: “You do not have to be ancient to remember a time when the House of Lords - site of The Throne in Parliament, for heaven’s sake - was respected, if not quite revered. Today it looks like the Upper Chamber of a decayed, decadent Ruritania. The sooner it is abandoned, the better.”
There have been calls for limitations on numbers of peers in the past, but all of these attempts have failed so far.