Belfast Telegraph

Sewel drug claims mean House of Fools cannot be allowed to carry on regardless

By Lindy McDowell

With impressive understatement, the wife of John Buttifant Sewel, former peer of the realm, deputy Lords Speaker and chairman of the House of Lords privileges and conduct committee, has let it be known that, no, he is not expected back home.

This is the same Lord Sewel who, at the weekend, was pictured spread-eagled over a prostitute's sofa, attired in an orange push-up bra and leather jacket, puffing on a ciggie. Which, it transpires, may be his more innocuous drug of choice.

Elsewhere, he was pictured snorting white powder, flashing his considerable paunch and generally indulging in the sort of debauchery that has long been tabloid manna from heaven.

The good lord is said to have spent more than £12,000 on prostitutes. Obviously, the day job was paying well. Chair of the House of Lords conduct committee ... the sort of boy who would pull others up on their "standards".

He has now, belatedly, fallen on his sword with a typically pompous statement that - right at the end - gets round to expressing apology. "Finally, I want to apologise for the pain and embarrassment I have caused."

His poor wife and family.

But seemingly uppermost in Sewel's thoughts was the House, not those at home. The House he was leaving - with the prospect of a hefty pension paid by the taxpayer.

"As a subordinate, second chamber, the House of Lords is an effective, vital, but undervalued part of our political system," he insisted.

It is a view not universally held, even within the portals of the Lords itself.

Baroness Boothroyd graduated to the upper house having served time as Speaker in the Commons. The Lords, she says, is a total mess that needs cutting down to size.

The Baroness feels a cull of the 800-plus peers could be achieved with a mandatory retirement age. She refuses, however, to pin down what this age might be. Seventy-five? Eighty? Eighty-five? She won't be drawn.

For the record, seedy Lord Sewel is a relative spring chicken at a mere 69.

As it is, the Baroness does point out there aren't enough seats when all peers are present. But how often is this a problem, anyway, given low attendance rates and lords otherwise engaged organising their cash-for-questions income supplement?

The place is a joke. An expensive, outdated joke.

A collection of generally arrogant old fogies and toffs, who, with their sense of entitlement and arrogance, look down upon the rest of us with disdain.

That picture of smoking Lord Sewel in his call-girl's bra and biker jacket reclining self-importantly in her boudoir gives the old goat the air of a comic Caligula. Carry On Up The Senate.

And that sense of self-entitlement and arrogance isn't, of course, limited to just this one house of representatives.

Another week, another raft of stories about shameful expenses claims from the Commons.

And back here, in our own Big House, reports that the Assembly is once again hanging by a thread.

Hanging by a thread over a billion pound Budget black hole while the various parties posture and pout about who is to blame for the latest impasse.

Have any of these people any idea how debased, how contemptible, both politicians and politics in general are currently viewed by the people they are elected, or appointed, to serve?

Not all politicians are to blame, of course. But far too many of them are prostituting parliament.

Overlong names don't cut a dash

Making the headlines of late, after she criticised the Duchess of Cambridge, was Professor Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly. It wasn't so much the prof's words that struck me. It was her name. Watanabe-O'Kelly is a bit of a mouthful and brings to mind again the question of where does this double-barrelled name thing ever end.

If, for example, a young Watanabe-O'Kelly gets together with say a young Fernandez-Versini (to pick another name from the news columns), how on earth do they edit their joint surname down to something that fits on the joint credit card?

How many hyphens can one name take?

Offensive gags are no laughing matter

The Scottish "comedian" Frankie Boyle who makes vile "jokes" about disabled children, and the former Apprentice star turned commentator Katie Hopkins who call migrants "cockroaches" have much in common.

Both have copped that causing offence is a sure way to raise their own profile and, thus, turn a nice profit.

The "comedian", in packaging sneering abuse of vulnerable children as entertainment, isn't doing it to make some vital point about humour. He's doing it to make money.

This is not an issue about freedom of speech. It's an issue about common human decency.

Belfast Telegraph


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