For days Boris Johnson has been warning that a ‘second wave’ is about to hit Britain.
I don’t blame him for the second wave of coronavirus that led him to slow down the easing of Covid lockdown measures.
But I do hold him responsible for the second wave of Boris cronies handed peerages yesterday, including the likes of City tycoon and Tory donor Michael Spencer, his own brother, ex-MP Jo Johnson, and newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev.
With reports of a third wave of Conservative peerages coming in the autumn, there must be a risk of a shortage of ermine to line the cloaks they will wear when they take their places on the Lords red leather benches.
For days Boris Johnson has been warning that a ‘second wave’ is about to hit Britain. I don’t blame him for the second wave of coronavirus that led him to slow down the easing of Covid lockdown measures. He is pictured above with brother Jo Johnson
The first wave of Boris barons came just seven days after the general election.
Millionaire Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, a close friend of Mr Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds, had lost his Commons seat but was conveniently given one in the Lords instead and allowed to carry on as Environment Minister as though nothing had happened.
He even had the nerve to give himself the title Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park, the constituency that had just democratically rejected him for the second time in three years.
The argument against Prime Ministers being able to pack the Lords with personal and political mates was made forcefully in 2003 when Tony Blair announced plans to appoint more peers.
Blair’s proposal was denounced as ‘disgusting’ by one critic who said: ‘Think of the lunches; the hackery; the behind-the-scenes schmoozing and fixing; the quiet words from the Government Chief Whip; the winking, the nose-tapping, the soft belching in the Savoy Grill Room, or Glyndebourne, or Ascot.’
That critic was Boris Johnson.
Former Labour MP Kate Hoey, left, defied Corbyn to back Brexit, while Philip May is seen right. The ever-loyal and discreet husband of former prime minister Theresa May was by his wife’s side throughout her struggles to leave the EU
Ian Botham is pictured left. PM compared himself to ‘swashbuckling’ cricket star, who publicly backed Brexit, while Claire Fox is pictured right. The former Brexit MEP has been praised by Nigel Farage
Ruth Davidson is pictured above. The former Scottish Tory leader helped gain a surge in support
Ken Clarke is pictured left. Father of House, a Brexit rebel, had whip withdrawn. Philip Hammond is pictured right. The arch-Remainer was booted out but did not criticise Boris
Ex-Labour MP Gilesa Stuart urged voters to back Tories. Sir Eddie Lister is pictured right. Strategic adviser has been by Boris’s side since he was Mayor
Michael Spencer is pictured above. Billionaire financier is former Conservative Party treasurer and has donated about £5m
I can’t help thinking of all the winking and hackery the Prime Minister must have enjoyed with his brother Jo, also a journalist, over the years.
Or the nose-tapping and soft belches at lunches he has enjoyed with billionaire wine connoisseur Mr Spencer, who has given £5million to Conservative coffers, at restaurants such as the Savoy Grill.
Or the behind-the-scenes schmoozing and fixing at high society soirees hosted by Russian-born culture vulture Evgeny Lebedev, proprietor of London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
Lebedev even owned a wolf called Boris.
Twenty four hours after winning the general election Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds attended Mr Lebedev’s Christmas party, along with Sir Mick Jagger, Princess Beatrice, David Walliams, actor Matt Smith and David Cameron.
Super-rich Mr Lebedev, son of former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, is so close to Mr Johnson he was a guest at the fateful dinner at Mr Johnson’s London home in February 2016 when Michael Gove finally persuaded him to lead the Brexit campaign. In 2018 Mr Johnson flew to the Lebedevs’ villa in Perugia, Italy.
The then foreign secretary was spotted at the airport returning home, dishevelled and hungover.
It is only fair to point out that Mr Johnson has also elevated some of his Tory critics to the Upper House including pro-Remain former Chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke.
But there is a distinct air of snobbery about some of the Conservative peerages.
In an obscure Commons career spanning four decades, Sir Henry Bellingham has neither said nor done anything of note. Would he have got a peerage had he not gone to Eton like Boris? Of course not.
Few will object to peerages for former Labour MPs Frank Field, Ian Austin, Kate Hoey and John Woodcock, who all showed great courage in standing up to Jeremy Corbyn.
But when the economy is shrinking by the day as a result of coronavirus, there has rarely been a less appropriate time to expand the House of Lords where you get £323 a day just for turning up.
The argument against Prime Ministers being able to pack the Lords with personal and political mates was made forcefully in 2003 when Tony Blair announced plans to appoint more peers
As the recent report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Select Committee showed, some peers use it to line their pockets while indulging in dubious foreign business interests with countries such as Russia and China. And unlike MPs, they do not even have to say how much they are earning.
Mr Johnson will derive special pleasure from the way ex Commons Speaker John Bercow, who did all he could to thwart Brexit, has been denied a peerage over bullying allegations.
But he has provoked the ire of Lord Speaker Lord Fowler, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s administration.
Lord Fowler says that with 792 peers already, the extra 36 announced yesterday will ‘drive’ Lords membership to well over 800, making a mockery of plans to slash the total to 600 to save money.
In his journalistic career Mr Johnson once managed to introduce the topic of ‘Kylie Minogue’s bottom’ into an article about House of Lords reform.
Judging from his second wave of peers, there is more chance of Miss Minogue being elevated in his next wave than of him reforming the bloated Lords.