Why King Charles should fear Starmer’s ageist plan for the House of Lords

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer thinks peers should retire from the House of Lords at the age of 80 - Getty

John Prescott was laid low by an unexpected punch this week, not from a member of the public but from the leader of his own party.

Step forward Sir Keir Starmer, humbler of the mighty and nemesis of the octogenarian. At a time when ageism has been in welcome retreat in our society, Sir Keir’s great constitutional reform will be to put it back at the centre of our legislature by requiring all peers to retire from the House of Lords at the age of 80.

He has some weasel words about how it will be “at the end of the Parliament” in which they turn 80, but everyone knows this is just a wheeze to get profoundly reluctant Labour peers to vote for their own extinction by giving them a few years stay of execution until the next election (which, whatever the majority, could be sooner than they think).

It only requires an Act of Parliament to make the change.

It’s not just Prescott. The loss of expertise and diversity will be real: out will go the wonderful and fragrant Joan Bakewell, the ever-trenchant Michael Heseltine (probably a bit too pro-EU for the new Sir Keir), that pillar of the arts Melvyn Bragg, along with Martha Osamor, champion of black empowerment, George Carey and Robin Eames, both former archbishops. The list goes on.

What have these men and women done to merit the brutal curtailment of their contribution to public life? Are they simply victims of an accident of birth?

But are the implications of Sir Keir’s vicious attack on the elderly even wider than he may think? We have a minimum age for MPs – why not have an upper age limit as well?

Surely any Act of Parliament setting a retirement age for the House of Lords should cover the House of Commons as well, whatever the electors may think.

And the consequences for the monarchy may be even more stark. The King will be 76 in November and we all wish him a long life.

“Long to reign over us,” as the anthem goes.

Presumably not what Sir Keir thinks. It could well be within the life of this new Parliament when the OAP-hating Prime Minister turns up for one of his weekly chats with the monarch clutching a P45 in one hand and a list of removals firms recommended by Lady S in the other.

Because if the contribution of peers over 80 is so useless, then why would we place any value on the work of a monarch carrying on beyond the limit set for peers? I am sure Sir Keir would disclaim any such irreverent thought. (“No plans to do so, etc.”)

House of Lords
Such a reform to the House of Lords could have wider implications - Leon Neal/Getty

But can we be sure of the views of the powerful, if shadowy, Labour Party NEC, which was the ultimate authority for this spooky manifesto? And a super-majority can go to a chap’s head.

Like the then prime minister Liz Truss, Sir Keir conducted himself with great personal dignity during the obsequies for the late Queen Elizabeth II barely two years ago.

But one wonders now what was going through his head as he stood through the doleful ceremonies.

Presumably at some point the thought dawned on him that the last 16 years of the late Queen’s reign had been a bit too much; that she had not been able to make much of a contribution to public life; that really any prime minister worth his salt should have put her out to grass in 2006.

After all, it would only have required an Act of Parliament.

Lord Moylan is a (68-year-old) Conservative peer

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