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Boris Johnson places his lords before leaving power

On the departure, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, tries to appoint about fifty personalities to the House of Lords, where he has already placed many relatives. Among the new prospects, valuable support for his political future.

“As always with Boris Johnson, he does not do half measures”, comments Thibaud Harrois, lecturer in contemporary British civilization at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. While he must officially resign on Tuesday, September 6, the British Prime Minister plans to appoint around fifty new lords to the upper chamber of the British parliament in the coming weeks.

Nothing surprising, a priori, since it only follows a tradition which wants each Prime Minister on the departure proposes a list of lords. But no one had ever dared to designate so many.

Not to mention that Boris Johnson has already brought 86 new peers into Westminster in three years in office. With this batch of nominations, he already fills 10% of the current room alone. Among this string of lords are relatives, such as his own brother, Jo Johnson, his former boss at the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore, or even disputed figures, such as the owner of tabloid Evgeny Lebedev, of Russian origin and son of a former KGB officer.

A jam-packed House of Lords

Boris Johnson’s request has a good chance of succeeding. The procedure is for the outgoing Prime Minister to submit his list to Queen Elizabeth II, who will grant the titles of Lords to the designated and thus ennobled personalities. “The queen has no choice, except in cases of force majeure”, explains Thibaud Harrois.

About fifty new peers should therefore soon jostle to succeed in sitting on the famous red benches of the House of Lords, which already has some 800 occupants appointed for life. Theoretically, members are responsible for examining bills from the House of Commons and can propose amendments, without preventing their passage. They also have the power to interpellate the government in the form of questions and to launch parliamentary commissions of inquiry.

Knowing that each Lord costs more than 300 pounds [380 euros] per day of attendance at Westminster to the British taxpayer, rumors of this coup de grace by Boris Johnson, in the midst of a social crisis, have raised serious concerns.

Instead of addressing the loss of purchasing power facing the population, the Prime Minister is using his last days in office for a last desperate attempt to distribute more jobs for boys, criticized, on Friday, the vice-president of the Labor Party, Angela Rayner, in the columns of the Guardian.

A faithful responsible for issuing an opinion on the appointments

Worse still, “Boris Johnson is showing pure arrogance by entrusting his own friend with the task of putting an end to cronyism in Parliament”, adds the elected opposition member. In question, the outgoing Prime Minister offered the post of Lords appointment checkpoint to Harry Mount, author of a glowing book about him and ex-member of the famous Bullingdon club, an aristocratic boys club in Oxford with a reputation sulphurous, of which Boris Johnson was himself a member.

According to the Guardian, which was able to confirm this information with Downing Street, Harry Mount will take office on September 11 and will be responsible for examining the list of honors proposed by Boris Johnson on the occasion of his resignation.

It is therefore not this follower of Boris Johnson who should oppose the appointment of personalities such as Ben Elliot, donor and co-chairman of the Conservative Party, whose name would be on the list, still according to The Guardian. “Boris Johnson is someone who uses his networks and appoints people as a reward for services rendered. And it’s also a way for him to continue to influence the House of Lords even when he is no longer in power”, analyzes Thierry Harrois.

Hereditary peers

Boris Johnson doesn’t even hide it anymore. In 2020, he appointed billionaire Peter Cruddas, in defiance of advice from the House of Lords Nominations Committee. Just days later, the businessman donated half a million pounds to the Conservative Party.

“In the late 1990s, Tony Blair paved the way for the Prime Minister’s appointment of Lords by deciding to do away with the bulk of the hereditary peers – who passed the title from father to son. There now remains a residual number of hereditary members from the aristocracy”, explains Thierry Harrois. Today the chamber has some 92 hereditary peers, all of them men, as well as 26 archbishops and bishops.

Sometimes mocked for its aging composition – the dean of the lords is 97 years old – and its members who are very detached from social realities, the upper house of the British parliament nevertheless has a role to play. “Some do not take their role seriously and never sit. But most do the job,” said Thierry Harrois. “Some lords have rare expertise, because they have had a long and brilliant career in the economic, social, scientific field… They make the nation benefit from this expertise by drawing up rich reports of analysis of the laws.”