In the years after World War I, a colorful chancellor named Maundy Gregory made a personal fortune Sale of chivalry and baronets on behalf of the Liberal Party by David Lloyd George. Gregory, who operated from a lavish office in Whitehall, was eventually convicted under the Honors (Prevention of Abuses) Act in 1933 and went into exile in France to live on a comfortable pension provided by friends in high positions.
There was of course nothing illegal about the new honor list released Discreetly by Boris Johnson last Friday afternoon when the nation was distracted by the Prime Minister's unexpected Covid 19 press conference. However, the sheer cronyism found in some of Johnson's nominations could further discredit a battered institution that is already questionable by the public. The unelected House of Lords is certainly the most bloated second chamber of a democracy in the world. The addition of 36 new colleagues to his ranks will increase the total number of legislators to 830, a number that Lord Spokesman Norman Fowler rightly classified as "ridiculous" over the weekend. In 2019, 120 of these colleagues participated in less than 10% of parliamentary departments, and 130 made no contribution to a Lords debate. A drastic extraction process is long overdue, which is why Theresa Mays Promise in 2018 Exercising reluctance to make new appointments was generally welcomed. Instead, Mr. Johnson decided to create a bumper list of newbies that had little to do with promoting good governance and much with recognizing services for the good ship Boris.
The billionaire newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev was refined just a week after the Secret Service and Security Committee drew attention to the growth of Russian influence at the heart of British politics and business. Mr. Lebedev, the son of a former KGB agent, has previously invited the Prime Minister to his lavish parties, including one in an Italian castle. But the support that his Evening Standard newspaper offered to Mr. Johnson during his time as Mayor of London may have been more significant in securing a place in the Lords. Veronica Wadley, a helpful former editor of the standard, has also received a peerage.
Making your younger brother lord will never look good regardless of the family motives behind the Prime Minister's decision to ennoble Jo Johnson. Boris Johnson also tried to heal wounds after the Brexit in the conservative party by giving prominent remaining rebels like Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke Peerages. Perhaps in a similar spirit of reconciliation, he presented the knighthood of his repressed predecessor, Philip May, for "political services" that remain indefinite. The offers of the ennobled billionaire Michael Spencer are obvious: Mr. Spencer donated £ 5 million to the Tories. The lifelong berth in the second chamber for Sir Ian Botham also rubs. Sir Ian was of course a great cricketer and is a dedicated charity activist. But did his support for Brexit really qualify him for a role in the legislature?
Although some of Mr. Johnson's nominations are outrageous, it would be unfair to make them uniquely reprehensible. Other prime ministers have used honor lists in a similarly self-serving way. But if the lords reach a size that borders on tragicomics, there is a risk that this regular pantomime out of pomp and favoritism will ruin the health of body politics. The ritual and stoat mask an out of control culture of scratching back and the favors that have been requested and returned. Much of the work in the second chamber is valuable and is done diligently, but cannot afford to resemble a private club that offers a comfortable home and personal prestige to members of a gold-plated sphere of influence. Mr. Johnson's Dissolution Honors List was aptly named.