Three new Welsh Peers a dancing. Well, perhaps not a dancing but Jenny Randerson, Eluned Morgan and Dafydd Wigley will all three have a spring in their step today. For they are all to go the House of Lords as Life Peers. These appointments underline again the fact that old politicians never die but fade away to that final resting place for retired politicians, the House of Lords
There is nothing surprising that both Eluned Morgan and Jenny Randerson should have accepted their respective party’s nomination to the Lords, for it’s very much part of the patronage system of Westminster parties. It is one of many weapons in the armoury of political parties that they can offer such rewards to politicians that have loyally served the ‘party’ without rocking the boat.
Both are members of parties whose first loyalty is the British state and all its glories. These glories include an anachronistic legislative chamber whose Members are not elected but stuffed full of old party hacks – an interesting form of law making body in a democracy. Quite why two intelligent women would want to give credence to such an institution is somewhat of a mystery.
Now why Dafydd Wigley would want to accept such an honour is an even greater puzzle.
For years Plaid Cymru took the view that as an undemocratic institution the House of Lords was very much a no go area. They refused to play, what they described as the ‘British Establishment’s game.’ They decided to boycott the place.
This was the settled view of the party until relatively recently. Then in what can only be described a spectacular u-turn they decided to stand the policy on its head and nominate party members to the upper House.
Plaid, being Plaid, held an election of all party members to decide who would be their nominees. The three chosen was a certain D Wigley, no surprises there then; Eurfyl Ap Gwilym, he of Paxman fame and Janet Davies an ex-Assembly member.
There was only one little fly in the ointment and that was Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He wasn’t having any of it. No “Nat” would get preferment on his watch. So Plaid have been kept waiting for a more sympathetic occupant in Number 10 – and now they clearly have one, in the form of David Cameron.
Now why should Plaid have changed their policy after years of principled opposition to the Lords. Well, it was all because of Peter Hain’s Government of Wales Act.
This act meant that any proposal by the Welsh Assembly for new laws[Legislative Competence Orders] had to pass through the two Houses of Parliament in Westminster. So the Plaid Cymru leadership put forward a compelling case that they needed to be in the Lords so that they too could vote on LCOs as they passed through.
But, and there’s always a ‘but’ in politics, if the referendum produces a ‘yes’ vote there will be no need for the House of Lords, or the Commons for that matter, to deal with Welsh only laws. These will be in the sole hands of Welsh Assembly members. The compelling case for Plaid Cymru members sitting in the Lords will vanish. It will be interesting to see if Mr Wigley or perhaps by then Lord Wigley will hand back his ermine and join the rest of the great unwashed!! Stranger things have been known to happen, but not very often.