Why join a House of Disgrace?

September 11, 2015 11:05

Stuart Polak, director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, has just been elevated to the peerage . This would appear to be good news, both for Mr Polak himself and for British Jewry. But I'm unable to join in the celebrations.

It seems to me that, in the present state of British politic, his acceptance of a peerage is poor judgment and that a seat in the House of Lords will do Israel no good whatsoever.

In a moment, I'll explain why. But before I do that I want to echo and endorse many of the positive aspects of Mr Polak's career that were mentioned in outline when his peerage was announced last month.

Now 53 years of age, Stuart Polak can boast a CV that is a model of its kind, reflecting a lifetime's commitment to his Jewish identity and to Jewish causes - pre-eminently Israel.

As a shrewd professional lobbyist, he has attracted criticism from time to time, but that's only to be expected.

Many are in the House of Lords as a reward for their failure

What the media reports did not mention was that, in going about his professional career, Mr Polak has overcome extremely serious health problems from which he has bounced back with renewed vigour and determination. In this respect, I regard him as a role model.

My own views on that very peculiar institution, the British honours system, are well known.

I believe it is an outdated, somewhat childish and sinister affectation, the relic of a bygone age that simply has no place in a modern democracy.

I would not accept an honour - even a knighthood - if one were offered to me.

I was once, more than a decade ago, sounded out (at arm's length, if you get my meaning) about a peerage, which I might then have accepted but, as I told the go-between, only for the purpose of using my position in the House of Lords to hasten the demise of this ridiculous historical relic.

If I were offered a peerage today, you may rest assured that I would reject it by return of post.

This is not because I am opposed to second chambers. I'm not. Indeed, if the UK were to become a federal entity, perhaps under pressure from the SNP, a second chamber, along the lines of the American Senate, might become essential.

But the 21st-century House of Lords - most of whose members are political cronies appointed by self-serving party leaderships - is a national disgrace.

Among its present ranks, and entitled to claim expenses of £300 a day just for attending and putting their bums on its well-padded seats, are a number of convicted criminals, some of whom have served prison sentences.

More numerous still are failed politicians, who in some cases were rejected by their electors and brazenly put into the Upper House as a reward for these failures.

They are about to be joined by, among others, the former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain, someone called Shas Sheehan, who appears to have been twice rejected (2010 and 2015) as Lib-Dem candidate for the Wimbledon parliamentary constituency, not to mention Douglas Hogg, a political deadweight if ever there was one.

Mr Hogg's expense claims as an MP included £200 for the maintenance of his Aga, £611 for a mole catcher, and £2,115 for moat cleaning.

I just wouldn't want to be seen in the company of such individuals. But not so Stuart Polak.

My anger might be assuaged if, in relation to the Conservative Friends of Israel, I could be shown solid evidence of impact - for example, a Conservative policy initiative inimical to Israel that the CFI was able to genuinely deflect if not entirely quash.

But I know of no such evidence.

The CFI conspicuously failed to prevent Prime Minister David Cameron from publicly criticising Israel's, perfectly lawful, interdiction of the so-called Gaza "aid" flotilla in June 2010.

And, little under a year later, in May 2011, when Mr Cameron very publicly resigned as a patron of the Jewish National Fund, the CFI actually leapt to Cameron's defence, Mr Polak himself opining that this capitulation to the Arab lobby had been "blown out of proportion."

September 11, 2015 11:05

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