The new Lords ‘lobby fodder’

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AS THE first female leader of Kirklees Council, Kath Pinnock clearly still has much to contribute to politics after being elevated to the House of Lords yesterday as one of 22 working peers nominated by the major parties.

The longstanding Liberal Democrat councillor for Cleckheaton is not alone. Her colleague Paul Scriven, the ex-Sheffield Council leader, joins her. Meanwhile, the Tories and Labour chose to focus on the political glamour – football boss Karren Brady and retired Marks & Spencer supremo Sir Stuart Rose will sit 
on the Tory benches 
while gay rights activist Michael Cashman, the ex-EastEnders actor, is amongst Labour’s nominees. Yet, while these are talented people, they are joining a discredited institution because it remains unelected in spite of the reform agenda pursued by the Lib Dems.

The Upper House does not need more political cronies and party donors who have been rewarded for past favours – the new tally take the tally to 850 which is the highest level since the abolition of hereditary peers. Instead it needs a select group of the great and the good who are prepared to work on a full-time, and preferably non-partisan basis, to scrutinise legislation until the issue of elections is reconciled. It’s hard to imagine Baroness Brady, for example, not fulfilling her duties with West Ham United if a match clashes with a Lords debate.

This is precisely the point made by Dewsbury-born Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker of the Commons, who reveals there is already insufficient desk space for peers. The 84-year-old would also like to see a compulsory retirement age introduced, even if this denied her the opportunity to speak out on constitutional issues. She clearly has little time for party appointments who she describes as “lobby fodder” because “they go through the lobbies and vote for the prime minister who put them there”. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of democracy in action.

More bloodshed in the Middle East

MILITARY intervention in the Middle East is a double-edged sword, as illustrated by the latest turmoil which has left world leaders looking powerless.

Despite American and British forces overthrowing Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein 12 years ago, the lasting legacy is not the peaceful and prosperous country envisaged by George W Bush and Tony Blair; US Secretary of State John Kerry says a campaign of terror being instigated by Islamist militants in Iraq against 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious sect bear the signs of genocide.

Yet some would contend the advance on Irbil by the Islamic State – the group previously known as ISIS – is direct consequence of the West’s abiding failure to intervene in Syria. They know Barack Obama is a lame duck president, despite his authorisation of air strikes, and that Britain is war-weary after a decade of spilt blood in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It does not end here. The factional fighting in Iraq comes months before the final Nato troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan – a move which opens up the dangerous possibility of the Taliban regrouping – and the resumption of hostilities between Hamas terrorists in Gaza and Israel following a brief cessation in the firing of rockets so humanitarian aid could reach some of the wounded and stricken.

In many respects, the confluence of these crises should necessitate the recall of Parliament. But what will this achieve, apart from appeasing the consciences of those members of Britain’s political elite who did not appear to be pre-occupied by the escalating violence before they went off on their summer holidays?

There’s no place like Yorkshire

IT WILL not be surprise many that Yorkshire has recorded the biggest increase in day visits and weekend stays by tourists – this, after all, is God’s own county and there is no finer place in Britain, or the world for that matter, to relax in the great outdoors or soak up the atmosphere of a historic city like York.

Yet what will so hearten Welcome to Yorkshire is that the latest data, published by VisitEngland, precedes the Tour de France and the priceless publicity that this county enjoyed when it staged an unrivalled and unforgettable Grand Départ last month.

This can only bode well for Yorkshire’s multitude of tourism-related businesses.

For, while the political agenda pursued by the main parties will inevitably focus on a select handful of marginal seats in predominantly urban areas prior to the next election, they neglect the enduring importance and value of the wider rural economy at their peril.