Westminster will now include – permanently – a junior advisor aged 29 with no discernible achievements and Boris Johnson’s 31-year-old tennis partner, a friend of his wife Carrie, among seven new peers. That takes it to a staggering total of 94 Brexit-supporting, Johnson-selected members of the House of Lords, who could twist the British Parliament to the right for decades – like the Trump appointees on the Supreme Court but with far less scrutiny and for a lot longer.
These seven may not know the first thing about Scotland – they may not be able to find the Northern Isles on a map, or know which side of the border Darlington is (like Rishi Sunak), or understand the devolution settlement. Yet they now have – as matters stand – the lifelong right to debate and amend legislation that affects Scotland – a right Scotland’s elected government apparently does not.
The seven have achieved little – they are famous only for partying during lockdown and skipping duties as Kabul fell in favour of a deckchair at the Oval to watch the cricket. Yet, they have been handed on a silver platter the freedom to fuck with Scotland’s laws. Idiots and sycophants they may be, appointees of a proven liar they certainly are, but they can now lord it up from the green benches, wrapped in ermine, and pick and choose which – if any – of the measures Holyrood passes go through. They are more important in the hierarchy now. They have more power. That’s the way the UK works.
The Lords recently helped to pass the post-Brexit Internal Markets Act – without the consent of Holryood. That law befouls the principles of devolution. It forbids Scotland from diverging from whatever the English Parliament chooses to enact. The English aren’t bothered about a bottle deposit return scheme? Then Scotland can’t have one either. The English government doesn’t want children to have their human rights enshrined in law? Scotland has to leave them out too – and trust the Home Office to protect young refugees. England has elected a party that wants to drop standards on chemicals to the floor, allow bee-killing pesticides and single use plastic wet-wipes that take 100 years to disintegrate? Well Scots must suck it up.
Westminster has decided that all sovereignty rests with itself and it only lends powers to Holyrood – powers that these London-based pipsqueaks will now get to sit in judgement over. So much for the promise that Scotland would have “the most powerful devolved legislature in the world”.
As well as debating and amending legislation and sitting on powerful committees, members of the Lords can even take up ministerial posts. For example, Malcolm Offord is a right-wing propagandist and Tory donor who failed to win election in Scotland. Now he is Minister of State and this week helped to scupper Scotland’s bottle deposit scheme – whilst owning shares in a business that benefits from the “profits before planet – polluter doesn’t pay” principle which the UK government holds so dear.
Johnson, upon resigning as an MP after having sight of a report that concluded he misled Parliament, has been allowed to pass an “Honours” list which includes titles for his dog walker and hairdresser, as well as creating seven new peers of startling mediocrity and lack of achievement.
Charlotte Owen, 29, will be the youngest ever Peer. She has a new entry in Wikipedia which reads:
Owen graduated from the University of York in 2015, gaining a 2:1 in Politics and International Relations.She is not known to have any formal professional qualifications or experience of work. She worked as an intern and parliamentary assistant, before joining the ‘Number 10’ Political Unit as a special adviser in an unknown role under successive prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
Ross “Anyone for tennis?” Kempsell, 31, is a member of Carrie Johnson’s close circle and likely attended the “Abba party” – in the middle of lockdown they danced and blasted ‘The Winner Takes it All’ from the windows of their flat at Number 11 Downing Street to celebrate the resignation of special advisor Dominic Cummings. This party has never been properly investigated.
Sean Bailey resigned as chairman of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee after a photo showed him posing with Tory aides while raising glasses beside buffet food when London was under coronavirus rules. Indoor socialising was banned in December 2020.
Dan Rosenfeld was criticised for spending an entire work day at a cricket match during the British government’s chaotic handling of the fall of Afghanistan; Johnson’s long-term aide Ben Gascoigne, former city hall adviser Kulveer Ranger; and Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor who is battling a controversy over the Teeswork project, are also now lifelong members of the UK Parliament.
Not the People’s Congress
They will join more than 800 members of the Lords, 87 of them appointed by Johnson – including his brother Jo Johnson, Lord Evgeny Lebedev of Siberia, who is bankrolled by his oligarch father, the KGB agent Alexander, and Lord Peter Cruddas. The Lords appointments committee unanimously opposed the selection of Cruddas but Johnson overruled them. A few days after accepting the title, Cruddas donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party. The Washington Post reported that 22 of the most generous Tory donors have been made Lords since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. Others made valuable personal gifts to Johnson before being “ennobled”.
Some Scots believe the Labour party will make it all good after the next election. Former PM Gordon Brown – a rare example of a Labour grandee who has not accepted a peerage – has proposed a Senate of the Nations and Regions for the UK. Brown, to give him his due, is well aware of the implications for Scotland of not doing this. Gavin Esler in his book “How Britain Ends’ makes the point that if England was actually serious about maintaining the Union it would have abolished the House of Lords years ago. But in my assessment it is not and it won’t.
This is an edited version of a piece on the author’s Substack A Letter from Scotland