Feature

Why it’s okay to purchase a peerage.

The week's news at a glance.

United Kingdom

Henry PorterThe Observer

The current scandal over the sale of seats in the House of Lords is no scandal at all, said Henry Porter in the London Observer. It’s alleged that Prime Minister Tony Blair offered peerages—the title “lord” plus voting rights in the upper house of Parliament—to at least four people who had made huge donations to the ruling Labor Party. The tabloids have been shrieking about corruption and the decline of honor. In reality, of course, nothing could be more English. Over the centuries, the House of Lords has been “as much the product of bribery, murder, sycophancy, and double-dealing as it has talent, the call of duty, and legitimate ambition.” Yet “despite the presence of a good many pay-as-you-go peers,” this unelected body of puffed-up dignitaries works well as a counterpoint to the raucously partisan House of Commons. Lords serve for life, and they take the long view, immune to political trends. So what if some of them bought their way in? “The British public would never have the wit to elect this unique assembly.”

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