In deference to my many American fans, I may need to clarify that this means bitten in the ass. Why you’d bite a donkey’s bottom is beyond me, but Hey!
This happened on Monday to CallMeDave and one of his toff hatchetmen, the Chancellor, George Osborne. The House of Lords voted not once, but twice, to veto the Grim Reaper’s changes to the tax credit system in the UK.
Tax credits are a way for people employed in low paid jobs to get, effectively, a rebate on their income tax. The Top Toff and his cronies were manoeuvring to reduce these payments, and that would have a disproportionate effect on those trudging upstream along the muddy bottom of the money flow. Those hardest hit would include nursery carers, hospital porters, security guards, school secretaries… None of those is a glam job, but somebody has to do it.
Bullingdon Club toffs do not have to do these jobs.
The Tories had an iron-hard grip on the whip; CMD even persuaded Andrew Lloyd Webber to fly in from his residence in the US to follow the party line, which in some circles might be regarded as vote rigging.
Despite all the machinations, the vote went against the government. At this point, predictably, the toffs sprang into action, foaming at the mouth and fulminating about how unconstitutional it is for a non-elected bunch of peers to stand in the way of the wishes of the elected House.
This stance is a bit rich. Under CMD’s patronage, the Lords now has more peers than at any time, all pulling in 300 quid a day just to turn up. If they cannot make their own minds up, get rid of them as they serve no purpose. Save us all a lot of money.
Also the Tories are vigorously opposed to reform of the Upper House, since usually their draconian policies get through on the nod. I’m no big fan of the Lords, but it is involved in the legislative process and on this occasion bit the hand that feeds it, and the handowner can’t really moan if it would have been willing to accept a favourable vote.
This leaves CallMeDave in a tricky position, because the Lords hasn’t blocked a financial measure passed by the Commons in over 100 years. You could make a case for this being a bloody good reason to shove the old duffers out of the system, but an elected second house would be even more unpredictable.
There are suggestions that Cameron might create a shedload more peers to make sure that his wishes get followed, but there are two problems here. One, if he only crams yesmen into the red benches, it looks mightily like even more obvious vote rigging. Two, one of his manifesto aims was to reduce the cost of government. Haul in another 150 assorted Lords, as has been suggested, that’s another fortyfive grand a day (plus expenses) down the tubes. Oh, and the House wouldn’t be big enough to get them all in anyway.
I forgot. Nigel Lawson, Maggie Thatcher’s henchman in screwing anybody not rich, both spoke out about and voted against this move. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.