In Depth

House of Lords: new peerages prompt 'weary disgust'

The 'arms race' to pack the chamber with loyalists shows the system is 'well and truly bust', say critics

The addition of 45 new lords and ladies in the House of Lords – pushing the total number of peers to well over 800 – has been described as "utterly preposterous".

The government yesterday revealed the names of 26 Tory, 11 Liberal Democrat and eight Labour peers. Former MP Douglas Hogg, who was exposed in the expenses scandal for trying to charge taxpayers £2,200 to clean his moat, is among the Conservatives. Multimillionaire donor James Lupton and Ultimo bra entrepreneur Michelle Mone will also become Tory peers. All will be eligible to claim £300 a day for turning up at the chamber.

The announcement has reignited debate about a comprehensive overhaul of the unelected chamber.

"No one with a proper regard for British public life can fail to be depressed – wearily disgusted, even – by yesterday's peerages," says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail.

He believes only five of them – former party leaders William Hague and Sir Menzies Campbell, former chancellor Alistair Darling, former home secretary David Blunkett and welfare reform adviser Philippa Stroud – deserve their places. "The rest are a mixture of time-servers, leaders' mates, downright dregs and at least one hefty donor to party funds," he says.

Oliver Wright, The Independent's Whitehall editor, says Cameron has been accused of hypocrisy for nominating hundreds of political appointees but limiting the independent crossbench peers to two a year.

Katie Ghose, chief executive for the Electoral Reform Society, described the expansion as a "constant arms race to pack the chamber with loyalists, whichever party is in power" and "shows the system is well and truly bust".

A Downing Street spokesman said that the Prime Minister wants the House of Lords to address reform itself.

In The Guardian, Martin Kettle says the new appointments have taken the total number of peers to 826 and the total number of Westminster legislators, including MPs, to 1,476.

"These are figures so utterly preposterous that merely to state them is to make an irresistible case for radical change in the size and purpose of the second chamber," he says.

Kettle adds that in any other profession the idea of rewarding those who help steered the Labour party to defeat and the Lib Dems "on to the rocks" would seem "scandalous" – but apparently not in politics.

"To an outsider, it would seem obvious that all this absurdity should push reform or abolition of the Lords up the political agenda," he says. "To insiders, however, the bloated Lords, though occasionally embarrassing, is a career necessity."

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