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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Is "Mr" Archer a sop to Blair's rebels

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Out of prison and out of the Lords
With the exception of fellow ex-con Jonathan Aitken, it will be hard to whip up much sympathy for Lord Archer.

There may be one or two of his old mates who believe loyalty dictates they stand by their friend in his time of trouble.

And there may even be those who still view him as a harmless fantasist.

But they are an understandably diminishing band.

Still, the former deputy Tory chairman would probably have a point if he complained that the new law banning convicts from sitting in the Lords was aimed specifically at him.

The added punishment of stripping him of his title seems particularly designed to heap indignity upon indignity.

Wrecked lives

What seems clear is that this move has been prompted by yet another attempt by the government to bury some bad news and placate its increasingly rebellious backbenchers.

Critics believe that Tony Blair's plans to reform the House of Lords are just one more instance where the pre-election rhetoric has given way to a fudge.

MPs furious at lack or Lords reform
Many MPs on all sides are incensed that, instead of getting what they believe should be a truly democratic upper house - as they believed they were promised - they are going to get a halfway house packed with unelected "worthies".

And, despite the decision to create an independent appointments commission, they suspect the worthies will end up being cronies. After all, who will appoint the appointers?

Like so many bold New Labour promises - fox hunting being the classic example - they believe they are being fobbed off with a weak, cowardly stitch up.

In the case of the Lords, they believe that unless it is an elected body it will remain a privileged club without any genuine accountability and, therefore, legitimacy.

Already won

Tony Blair, however, points out that an elected upper chamber could end up rivalling the Commons, which must retain its primacy.

It would also be a retrograde step to lose the sort of experience and expertise that certain peers previously brought to the chamber.

They are arguments, however, that supporters of more radical reform believed had already been won.

And they are furious they have ended up with this reform.

Many of the same people will, however, be delighted that Mr Archer-to-be is receiving the treatment the new legislation will mean.

And, of course, it is Archer not fudge that will get the big headlines.

Thank heavens spin is dead, they might say.




SEE ALSO:
Archer faces ban from Lords
18 Sep 03  |  Politics
Lords reform plan in tatters
25 Feb 03  |  Politics


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