Insights from the UK and beyond
They are known as the “big beasts”, those polticians that hold, or have held, heavyweight government posts and stalk the landscape as if they own it.
The return of Ken Clarke to the Conservative front bench as business spokesman offered Westminster watchers the delicious prospect of watching an admired political performer take on
another just as adept at the stalk and kill in the form of Peter, now Lord, Mandelson.
But there lies the conundrum, slightly scruffy Clarke, a member of the House of Commons, or lower house, will never growl across the dispatch box at his well-coutured, well-coiffed
opposite number, who has established his den in the Lords, or upper chamber.
This is rankling lawmakers who feel that on matters such as Tuesday’s 2.3 billion pound rescue package for the car industry, the commons, which represents the people, should take primacy and senior ministers should be subject to proper scrutiny. A grilling in the Lords is about as severe as being savaged by a dead sheep.
Allegations of sleaze have rocked the unelected House of Lords and re-opened the debate about its role in a modern parliamentary system.
The Lords contains senior members of the Church of England, judges, figures from outside the world of politics and nominees from political parties. There is also a rump group of lords elected internally to stay on after a major reform in 1999 sidelined most of the country’s hereditary peers.