So Much for Nobility...


A time there was when the awarding of a title of nobility in European countries was intended as formal recognition of the recipient's service to the crown, to the country, or to the state. Under the feudal system, the honour was given in exchange for military service and was hereditary; but in modern times it has been given, at least in theory, as a very special life-time award by the state to a tiny handful of individuals deemed by it to have led a singularly meritorious career. That is why the process has been termed 'ennoblement' -- the implication being that these individuals are somehow noble and worthy of such appellation. For this reason, concommittant with the very exclusive privileges they obtain, ennobled citizens have added responsibilities, especially with regards to standards of conduct.

When Tony Blair's Labour regime seized power in 1997, the nobility as a system had long been on the wane, the aristocracy having been progressively stripped of its legal powers through successive reforms. All the same, the majority of the House of Lords prior to 2000 was in the hands of a hereditary aristocracy, which were largely Conservative members. During the late 1990s, Blair undertook his long-threatened 'reform' of the House of Lords with gusto and in a partisan fashion, determined, above all, to increase Labour's representation in the chamber (according to him and his supporters, it needed to be more modern and 'democratic'). While at it, he also undertook to multiculturalise this old institution, as it was too uniformly White and male for his liking.

Two beneficiaries of Blair's policy were foreign-born Muslims: Manzila Pola Uddin (from Bangladesh) and Amir Bhatia (from East Africa), who became Baroness Uddin and Lord Bhatia respectively. They joined Indian-born Swraj Paul, since 1996 Lord Paul, and a wealthy long-standing supporter of the Labour Party and of the man who most diligently ruined the British economy in the decades since World War II, Gordon Brown.

Having been ennobled under such extraordinary circumstances, one would have thought that their Lordships and Ladyship would have gone the extra mile to prove their worth. After all, does not aristocracy mean 'rule by the best'? 

Yet, how did they repay the British state for the honours it bestowed upon them?

By theft.

All three have been found guilty of misappropriating public funds through fraudulent expenses claims. 

Needless to say that they are not the only ones in Parliament who have been found guilty of misconduct. The Parliamentary Expenses Scandal of 2009 provided a most unedifying spectacle, with many of these peers' 'blood-and-soil' British colleagues also caught with their arms elbow-deep in the cookie jar -- essentially pickpocketing me and all other taxpayers.

All the same, it is still especially galling when individuals who were not even born in the country and who have been awarded high honours instead of worthier citizens, behave in such corrupt and dishonourable fashion.

All now face suspension from the House of Lords and have been asked to return the £200,000 ($300,000) they stole. But in a just world, they would be stripped of their peerages altogether: these are not individuals deserving to be called 'noble'.