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50 Years Ago

Kicked Upstairs

Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn has fought a furious fight against his transfer to the House of Lords. Despite his struggles, the government showed that they were determined to have him kicked upstairs.

Some lobby correspondents whispered that Mr. Macmillan personally gave the thumbs-down to Mr. Benn's efforts to renounce his peerage. The P.M., said the rumour, is at odds with Lord Hailsham, and doesn't want to set a precedent which might bring him back to the commons.

Mr. Benn's predicament is not free of irony. The Labour Party, of course, once stood for the abolition of the House of Lords. And Mr. Benn's constituency used to elect Sir Stafford Cripps, who was at one time an ardent opponent of royalty, titles and the rest.

By the time Labour achieved power in 1945, they had dropped their old pledge about the Lords. Now, in fact, they do their bit towards helping the Upper House alive by supplying their share of life peerages.

It is Mr. Benn's bad luck to have been born the son of a peer. His membership of the Labour Party is a different matter. He may not be able to resign his title: but he can always leave the party which has supported the system of pomp and privilege.

(“News in Review”, Socialist Standard, May 1961)