A bill giving King Charles the power to personally strip titles from anyone, without parliamentary interference gets its second reading in the Commons on Friday (Dec 9).
Should the bill progress all the way to royal assent, where the King gets to sign it with one of his “bloody pens”, he may well have the power, under his “own initiative” to strip Baroness Mone of her title.
Of course, it’s very much a family affair when it comes to King Charles and titles, especially those that could be stripped from those who have damaged the Firm. The King’s younger brother and his youngest son are two obvious contenders but there’s a growing list of ennobled and titled others equally perceived for differing reasons to deserve the same dishonoured fate.
Near the top of that list will be Lady Mone who announced on Tuesday (Dec 6) that she is taking a leave of absence from the Lords to clear her name over allegations she took £29 million from a PPE deal.
Michelle Mone remember is the girl from Glasgow who rose from nothing, left school at 15 without qualifications, set up a lingerie company and ended up as a Tory baroness with a seat in the House of Lords.
David Cameron put her there in 2015 after the briefest of meetings and apparently very little oversight, a reward for Mone’s entrepreneurship, her love of the Union and campaigning in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
Since taking her seat seven years ago, Mone – whose Isle of Man home was among several properties raided by police earlier this year – has made five spoken contributions in the Lords, the last being a speech on International Women’s Day in March 2020.
On International Men’s Day (Nov 19) in 2020, the son of a KGB spy Lord Lebedev took his seat in the House of Lords, courtesy of Boris Johnson, who ignored the advice of Britain’s security services to appoint the media mogul. Records show that Lebedev has made just one spoken contribution and submitted two written questions since he was made a joined and is yet to vote on anything.
Which begs the question, why is he there at all?
It’s the same question asked about many in the Lords but one very rarely posed in the Commons, largely because parliamentarians aren’t really allowed to talk about each other, as we were reminded on Tuesday (Dec 6).
Normally the Common’s green benches provide cover for any MP statements about people that expressed elsewhere would see them end up in court for defamation. Parliamentary privilege, however, does not extend to letting an MP criticise any of those sitting on the red benches up the corridor in the Lords because of “very specific rules” about what parliamentarians can say about each other.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was warned of these by the deputy speaker on Tuesday, at the start of a debate about the government’s PPE contracts.
Rayner castigated the sleaze at the top of the government as she submitted Labour’s “humble address” to try and force the publication of paperwork surrounding the controversial awarding of PPE contracts.
It’s a subject the Tories want to just wish away, as clearly evidenced by the empty benches behind (ano)the(r) junior minister sent out to defend a government that treats any notion of scrutiny with contempt.
When the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara said the whole PPE thing “stinks” he was quickly shushed by the deputy speaker who reminded him of parliament’s “very specific rules” and that investigations into Mone are already underway.
Undeterred, Labour’s Dawn Butler said she understood the rules that MPs were not “supposed to speak about the Conservative peer too much,” and commented directly on Mone taking a leave of absence.
“And I’m not saying this in jest madam deputy speaker,” said Butler, “I do hope that she’s not on her yacht trying to do a runner.”
Mone’s yacht is called the Lady M, and was purchased for several million last year. It had a multimillion pound refit and is now apparently up for sale for £10.5 million – which is just over a third of what Mone is alleged to have got from the £200m contract for PPE that proved to be unusable.
That contract was awarded through the infamous VIP lane of recommended suppliers that saw billions handed over to firms (very similar to Medpro PPE) that were recommended by Tory politicians.
As O’Hara said, the whole thing stinks.
Mone’s peerage, the reasons for it, the privileges accruing from it and the resulting scandals encapsulate the rottenness of Britain’s political system that’s seen five prime ministers in the last six years, all from the same Conservative party.
King Charles to star in latest installment
Like many a politician, Mone will find the Royal Family will shift the heat and scrutiny away from her particular predicament. Because the latest instalment of this particular Royal soap opera is – coincidentally of course – about to drop on Netflix (home after all of the Crown), just as MPs debate Maskell’s private members bill.
Netflix’s spin-off – starring the actual real-life Duke and Duchess of Sussex – will increase the clamour for King Charles to strip Harry and Meghan of their titles.
Calls to strip Prince Andrew Duke of York of his will be even louder.
Mone, and indeed the whole government will be ever so thankful. For a short time at least.
Because also lost to the resulting din will be the voices of ever increasing numbers of striking workers and their calls for pay settlements that won’t leave them poorer. Never mind the families struggling with the cost of living crisis, the schools facing bankruptcy, a crumbling NHS and pretty much everyone and everything else damaged by 12 years of Conservative austerity and misrule.