Skunk: A person regarded as obnoxious or despicable.
But it was done with considerable input from a political lynch mob, and as a symbol of the banksters (= banker + gangsters), and I’m left with more questions than answers.
Was it a correct decision, and was it made on a correct basis, and should it apply to Peers as well as Knights, and where should we draw the lines, if any?
Let me try a few examples.
Should Sir Richard Branson have his Knighthood quashed because he launched his career with a significant Purchase Tax fraud, for which he was never charged.
Does it make much difference that he’s raised significant charitable funds, in addition to his own profile, since, and built a major business?
Should Lord Hanningfield be expelled for having been locked up for 9 months for False Accounting?
What about Lord Paul, who overclaimed £38,000 but paid it back?
What about non-financial offenders, such as Lord Bell, who masturbated (without any requests, it should be noted) to several women through his bathroom window in Hampstead in 1977, and was convicted of indecency?
Or Baroness Uddin, who lied about her circumstances, but was found guilty by the House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee, rather than by a Court of Law? Her intention was to return to the Lords, so that her fiddled expenses would be paid off from more expenses claimed from the taxpayer.
Should former Ministers, who have been found to have fiddled significant sums, be prevented from receiving the traditional Life Peerage which comes up with the rations for Cabinet Expenses?
And what about more trivial offences? Should shoplifting have cost Antony Worrall-Thompson a Knighthood if he had one?
Alistair Darling that we need a process, and one outside rough and tumble politics, to the risk of this becoming a method of political assassination of opponents:
“I’m not here to defend Sir Fred… I just think we’re getting into awful trouble here if we go after people on a whim and we don’t have a clear set of principles against which we can judge people, it’s not right.”
But where do we draw the lines and how do we define the principles?
If things stay as they are in the Lords, my poster child for expulsion from the Peerage is none of the above, but Michael Martin, Baron Martin of Springburn.
To my eye Martin’s most serious offences are not his own highly questionable expenses, nor his attacks on individual MPs, nor that he behaved as a bastard child of Captain Mainwaring and Compo.
His most serious offence was to facilitate corruption of the processes within Parliament, from his vigorous defence of the ability of MPs to hide their expenses, to his allowing officials to shred receipts for MP Expenses from 2001 to 2004 while High Court action about access to Expenses Receipts was in full swing.
Looking through the list above, I don’t care about Knighthoods, and I’m tempted to suggest a scorched earth solution to the Lords.
Or should we solve it by starting from scratch with an elected Lords, so that the whole apparatus of determining acceptability can be swept away.
Which would allow crooks can be elected to the Lords on the same basis that they can currently be elected to the Commons.