Michael Gove was a brave man entering a bear pit when he went to meet with Tory peers this afternoon, following an almost week-long row about his suggestion the Upper House moves to Stoke-on-Trent during parliament’s restoration. Fighting it out, Guido hears Gove was on the receiving end of some cold fury from the party’s traditionalist Noble Peers, not least Lord Cormack who compared the Secretary of State’s letter to an estate agent’s brochure. Andrew Lansley questionably complained the only reason the QE2 Conference Centre had been retained in public hands was to allow the Lords to decamp there. Guido’s mole reports Lords Norton, Geddes, King, Taylor and Hayward all raised concerns, though arguably it was Lord Vaizey who went the furthest. Suggesting it should be Gove moving to Stoke on Trent…
There wasn’t total unity among Tory lords, however. Baroness Fookes asked whether a site to which the Lords would decamp has been identified in Stoke and what costings/savings had been determined. The implication of her question was that there was no site and no costings/savings had been identified. Lord Frost said he’s open-minded about relocation. Appropriately this whole showdown took place in Parliament’s Moses Room. Though by the sound of it Michael Gove won’t be leading an exodus of peers out of SW1 and across the Red Wall any time soon…
The Earl of Shrewsbury has admitted he was “totally at fault” for failing to declare his interest as a company adviser to SpectrumX, a hand sanitiser manufacturer, before asking multiple questions in the House related to government guidance on sanitiser in October 2021. Following an investigation by the Lords Standards Commissioner, launched after complaints by Tom Winnifrith, the report yesterday concluded Earl Chetwynd-Talbot had breached the Lords’ Code of Conduct – albeit inadvertently:
“Lord Shrewsbury has candidly admitted his failure to register the clients of Talbot Consulting Ltd which constitutes a breach of paragraph 12(a) of the Code of Conduct. I accept Lord Shrewsbury’s explanation that his failure to register his interests correctly was inadvertent.”
The Commissioner gave Chetwynd-Talbot a minor slap on the sanitised wrist, concluding it was “a minor breach”, and that a simple apology was the “appropriate” response to allow him to wash his hands of the probe. The Earl did has he was told, and promised to stay squeaky clean in future:
“As previously stated, Talbot Consulting Ltd is a personal service company. I freely admit that I did not read the rule change in 2020 and was unaware of its existence […] It was entirely through my failure to make myself aware of the change of rules in 2020 that I had failed to register the client’s names following that rule change, and I am totally at fault.”
No doubt Lord Shrewsbury will want to wash his hands of this sorry affair…
Hat-tip: Share Prophets
Read the Standards Commissioner’s full report below:
Labour Peer Lord Pendry has been handed a week’s suspension by the House of Lords’ conduct committee, which found him to have bullied a member of security staff to the point of being “physically shaken and unnerved” after he berated them for trying to escort an un-passed guest whom the Lord had left unattended. As the security guard recounts:
“In the course of carrying out my duties in the east division HOL, I discovered a paper pass holder. I dealt with the pass holder in a polite manner and escorted [them] to a toilet in lower waiting. On the pass holder being returned to [their host, thought all was good I returned to my post.
But at approximately 1800hrs a peer unknown at the time, approached me grabbing my radio demanding to know my name. This incident was witnessed (KL], Door keeper, who assisted me. I called for support.
This whole incident left me physically shaken and unnerved. I submit this to you and thank you. This all took place on the 6/7/21.”
The incident above was in fact Lord Pendry’s second altercation with parliamentary security, with the standards committee also investigating an incident last year in which Pendry himself lost his pass and when confronted by security trying to get on the estate called the guard “a fool”, “stupid” and at that point said “this is f***ing ridiculous”. At this time the Commissioner found there was not enough corroborative evidence to establish a breach of the rules on the balance of probabilities…
While the Lords was busy providing entertainment last night by way of a snoozing peer, much more important news came from Norman Tebbit who announced his impending retirement from politics at the end of the month. Writing in the Telegraph he says that his health has been getting worse since the beginning of the year, “particularly from the damage done to my left hip in the IRA terrorist bombing”. This, plus his impending 91st birthday, has forced him to make the decision.
Not only is Tebbit going to hit the institutional memory – and soundness – of the Lords, it comes after both Lord Fowler and Lord Lawson effectively announced their retirements. The clean out of Thatcher generation cabinet from the Lords should worry anyone keen on genuine debate in a chamber that struggles to break past its statist, liberal, high Tory default mindset.
Consulting the Twitter hivemind a few remain – Ken Baker, Lord McKay, Ken Clarke, David Howell, Tom King, Norman Lamont, John Wakeham, Heseltine, Gummer – though the likes of Heseltine can not really be described as “Thatcherite” and they are on the whole infrequent contributors to debates. Lawson and Tebbit were some of the few fighting for Brexit when the Lords was intent on thwarting the will of the people. Boris might want to think about topping up the tank with true blue believers…
Heathite, Remainer Tory peer Lord Cormack has sensationally told ITV News that the present Ukraine crisis calls for a government of national unity to face down the Russian war machine. Peston was amazed: “Tory grandee Lord Cormack says the Ukraine crisis is so grave that the time has come for a national government. He has been in parliament for 52 years”. Guido’s not sure why Rob felt this intervention was worth reporting on… it’s the third time Lord Cormack has said he wants such a cross-party government since 2018.
2018, July – Brexit: “In many ways, the situation that we face needs a national Government”
2021, January – Covid: “I am not advocating a national Government, much as I would personally like one”
In October 2020 he also became starry-eyed over the idea of a national government during a debate on the internal market bill:
“We need to come together in this country more than we have ever needed to. We must not dismiss opinions because they come from parties other than our own. I am not so starry-eyed as to think that we could have a national Government tomorrow, but we have to treat each other with a degree of respect.”
Now he calls for one over Ukraine. Perhaps Lord Cormack needs to assess whether he actually wants to sit as a Tory peer…
The candidate list for the first hereditary peer by-election, set for the 8th February, is out and includes some top-effort manifestos from those vying for the vacancy.
Most eye-catching is the Earl of Dudley, whose opportunity to hype up his qualifications for the job consists of a solitary YouTube link, leading to his youtube channel “Technodemic”
Earl De La Warr passes up the opportunity to go into detail, merely assuring the posh electorate that “Without listing my many political interests, I feel sure I can make a positive contribution to your Lordships House.”
Lord Strathcarron promises to “offer the House experience in less well-represented areas… For more background please see my Wikipedia page.”
Lord Biddulph provides the briefest biography, merely saying “I have always felt that in the House of Lords an honest opinion is the best one. I am always happy to be called on to serve.”
One candidate standing may ring bells among co-conspirators. In 2010 Viscount Monckton was going round as a Ukipper, claiming to already be a member of the Lords. In 2011, the House of Lords published a “cease and desist” letter demanding that he should stop claiming to be a member of the upper house.
“You are not and have never been a member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters patent, a peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House.”
Now Monkton’s standing for election to the house of which he was supposedly already a member. On an expertly climate-sceptic platform featuring a Bible quote…