The other significant development is that Mr Blair has become an even more prolific creator of peerages than David Lloyd George. He, of course, was generally thought to be handing out peerages and knighthoods in return for donations to Liberal party funds. Mr Blair has tended to hand out his political gifts in return for a more powerful currency — blind loyalty to the new Labour cause — at least judging from the 16 new names he put forward on Friday. But there has also been a touch of the Lloyd Georges about it. How else to explain the elevation of Lord Levy, the prime minister’s main fundraiser, and Lord Drayson, who also gets a job as a defence minister?The prime minister, like Uriah Heep, was so very humble immediately after winning his third term. He was aware that voters had given him a bloody nose. The lesson of Labour’s reduced majority was that he had to listen and learn. But Mr Blair, it seems, does not take long to forget. The country voted 36% Labour, 33% Tory and 23% Liberal Democrat. It takes some strange maths to convert that to 16 new Labour peers but only six for the Tories and five for the Lib Dems.
There is nothing subtle about this government’s approach to the Lords. The upper house rightly made life difficult for ministers during Labour’s second term. Its defiance on foxhunting was perhaps predictable but its resistance to the Home Office’s anti-terrorism control orders was an important and admirable defence of ancient liberties. The one piece of good news is that loading the Lords with another batch of failed ministers and party cronies will probably not reduce its power to make trouble — the combined strength of Tory, Lib Dem and independent peers will still easily exceed that of Labour.
Of more concern is what Lord Falconer, another unelected crony, has been saying. The lord chancellor wants to limit the time the Lords can consider legislation to 60 days. He believes it should be a convention that the upper house does not vote down any manifesto commitment by the government. Given the opacity of manifestos, particularly Labour’s, that is a tall order. As Oliver Heald, shadow constitutional affairs secretary, puts it: “For eight years Mr Blair has sought to marginalise the House of Commons. Now he wants to disable the House of Lords, the only chamber of parliament these days that is able to stand up to him and ensure that government legislation is properly debated and examined.”
Lord Falconer appears to be the embodiment of the arrogance that new Labour is showing in its third term. Amid widespread concerns over postal voting and arrangements that a judge said were “wide open to fraud”, he insisted last week that the electoral system was “safe and secure”. The government’s proposed changes, dismissed by opposition parties as tinkering, do not include the key Electoral Commission recommendation of individual voter registration for postal votes. The system will remain open to abuse. Lord Falconer has also dismissed calls for a more fundamental review of the electoral system on the back of Labour’s embarrassingly weak mandate.
Ten days on from polling day, then, and we already know quite a lot about how Labour will proceed in its third term. Mr Blair’s arrogance, temporarily lost during a humbling election night, has returned. It is not a good sign.