ON the tenth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Ten lords a-sleeping
Nine ladies chancing
Eight barons chiselling
Seven bishops missing
Six viscounts milking

YOU’D need to compose an entirely new verse of the famous Christmas song to cover the many ways by which the Scottish Labour Party maintains the upholstery of the British aristocracy. The party of the people uses the House of Lords as a luxury eventide home for its politicians.

These tribunes of the people are all lined up in a row, slurping vigorously at the trough of the UK establishment: Baron George Foulkes of Cumnock, Baron Jack McConnell of Glenscorrodale, Baron Alistair Darling of

Roulanish, Baron George Robertson of Port Ellen.

This is the very first sentence of the UK Labour Party’s website: “The Labour Party has always been about people. It was formed to give ordinary people a voice and has sought power in order to improve their lives.”

Perhaps. What it’s certainly providing is a comfortable and rewarding retirement plan for the party’s codger wing. Whichever way you look at it, The National’s recent analysis of the means by which Scottish members of the House of Lords maintained their affluent and gentrified lifestyles during lockdown was astonishing.

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The aforementioned Baron of Cumnock has had a grand old time during the lockdown. Lord Foulkes (below) bravely defied the coronavirus threat to keep on working at the House of Lords during the most intense lockdown period.

We have to assume that he was working because nothing in Hansard’s records during this period suggests that the Ayrshire baron was doing anything remotely useful while the rest of the UK population faced economic hardship and a daily threat to their health.

Being kind chiels at The National, we’ll grant the Baron the benefit of the doubt and accept that he was beavering away, giving “ordinary people a voice” and using power “in order to improve their lives” … just exactly like it says on the Labour tin.

The National: Hearts' chairman George Foulkes watches the Bank of Scotland Premier League match against Hibernian at Easter Road, Edinburgh, Saturday October 29, 2005. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA. **EDITORIAL USE ONLY**.

Not that these stalwart receptacles of pre-cooked comestibles feature anywhere near the rarefied bill of fayre to be found in the House of Lords dining room. Among a wide range of seductive starters, Lord Foulkes and his fellow Labour lords could feast on Loch Duart salmon pumpernickel, pressed cucumber, Colchester oyster cream and – of course – a dill emulsion. I always find that even the most austere menus can be enhanced by an audacious wee dill emulsion.

Don’t you?

The most eye-catching main course (to my inexpert palate anyway) was the Denham Estate venison, comprising a venison parfait, haunch venison, Barkham blue cheese, Lincolnshire parsnip, butternut squash and soy chocolate. Hence the request often heard in Scotland’s top Chinese restaurants: “Would sir like some of wur soy chocolate to go with his crispy pancake rolls?”

One satisfied customer who had recently eaten in the Peers dining room at the House of Lords left a gushing review on Tripadvisor. “A wonderful luncheon in surroundings not usually encountered by most people, this elegant restaurant is only open to the public during parliamentary recess. The food was excellent and the service faultless. It is not cheap, however as my late mother always told me you get what you pay for.”

Perhaps the last sentence could provide the basis of a new slogan for Sir Keir Starmer’s iteration of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn’s “for the many not the few” doesn’t obviously sit well in Sir Keir’s new acquiescent Labour movement. “You get what you pay for” has a much more compelling timbre about it. Non?

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The Baron of Cumnock attended Westminster’s upper chamber on 216 occasions between April 2020 and July of this year. And who can blame him when you can get some of that dill emulsion and soy chocolate to reinforce your slumbers during those arduous afternoon sessions on the leather seats. He came top of the list for the largest combined allowance and expenses claim. This came in at a none-too-terrible £64,643.

HIS fellow red baron, Jack McConnell, the former Labour First Minister of Scotland was also making hay while the sun didn’t shine. Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale helped himself to £62,157 in combined allowance and expenses for 193 days. As with the Baron of Cumnock we must salute him for venturing out during Covid to keep the fires of democracy burning brightly.

Except, of course, there’s nothing democratic about it. None of these poundland aristos are elected, even though they have some limited powers to tinker with legislation passed by those we do elect.

Even the old argument that the Barons, Baronesses and Church of England Bishops provide a constitutional brake as a revising assembly on laws that might be considered not quite pukka has been demolished in recent years. In this period successive Conservative prime ministers have ruthlessly exploited it as a medieval form of patronage to reward party donors and to enforce discipline among truculent MPs. It’s a grace-and-favour bribes factory. And in those first 15 months of emergency Covid measures 40 Scottish peers raked in almost £1m between them in daily allowances and expenses.

Of course, the most iniquitous aspects of the House of Lords aren’t its essential undemocratic nature or the £305 daily expense claims (a few minutes’ attendance qualifies you for this) or the feudal patronage. It’s the way that it helps to provide an insidiously subliminal message to the British public: that influence and rewards don’t have to be earned, that unquestioning party loyalty or a few million quid can provide you with a title that opens doors to an anointed few.

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It says that you can circumvent the values of honest work and fair recompense if you can obtain a platinum card for the establishment’s exclusive membership lounge. It maintains the British class system and embeds the concept of deference in our society.

Like our maintenance of the British royal family in their lifestyle of absurd luxury the House of Lords tells the nation that it’s okay to cheat, to take shortcuts and to suspend the laws of natural justice in our daily transactions.

As such, the Labour Party should have nothing to do with it. Nor should the LibDems. If they joined the SNP in disavowing this institution it would collapse instantly. These two UK parties of the centre-left purport to stand for progressiveness and egalitarianism. Yet they support the cornerstone of a class-based structure which exists to exclude their supporters. How easy it’s been to buy them all off.