Four Labor Party members of Britain’s House of Lords are under investigation after reporters for the Sunday Times newspaper, posing as lobbyists, taped conversations about exchanging money for legislative amendments. The scandal, dubbed “Erminegate” because of the lords’ fur-trimmed red robes, sparked calls for tougher ethics rules. (The Washington Post)
What the commentators said
The Lords aren’t noble any more, said Vernon Bogdanor in Britain’s The Times. But that’s not news—a 1999 law removed almost all of the hereditary members of the un-elected upper house of Parliament. Now, though, it will take some ethics reform with teeth to restore the public’s trust.
It will take more than that, said The Independent in an editorial. At least some members should be “democratically accountable to the electorate,” although switching to a wholly elected chamber would be a mistake. Lords who don’t have to worry about re-election are a “stubborn check” on the professional politicians in Parliament’s lower house.
This is Tony Blair’s fault, said Peter Oborne in Britain’s Daily Mail. In 1997, as prime minister, he set out to make the hereditary system of the House of Lords “fit for the 21st century.” Then, instead of demanding the same commitment to public service that encouraged integrity for centuries, he packed the chamber with Labor Party stooges and donors—making the House of Lords “synonymous with sleaze and corruption.”