NO CHEERS FOR THREE PEERS – the Asian mindset still evolving through a ruthless aristocracy ?!!


Venality is an orphan. Unlike success it has no parents. Thus corruption travels ticketless on the news express. The best response available is evasion, the worst is a string of untruths. These points are brought home with the news that three members of the House of Lords — all three of South Asian origin — face lengthy suspensions from parliament. The trio — Lords Swraj Paul and Amirali Bhatia, and Baroness Pola Uddin — are the only ones to be thus indicted because the two lords gave the addresses of rarely used homes outside London as their “main homes” and the baroness, too, claimed a home outside London which was not her residence.

The motive for recording these lies was to collect travel and overnight allowances. The House of Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee, while condemning the three members and suspending them, also said that the peers would have to pay back around £200,000. It is not enough to say that the three peers have disgraced the House of Lords. They have also disgraced the whole of South Asia. Whenever any South Asian wins an accolade at any international forum, it calls for a show of pride. It follows, therefore, that this kind of dishonourable conduct should bring forth shame.

The fact that Lords Paul and Bhatia have repaid chunks of the money that they had falsely claimed in no way reduces the enormity of what they did and the dishonour they have brought upon themselves. When the three of them were elevated to peerages, the Queen, on the advice of her government, reposed on them an office of trust. It was trust vested in the three peers on behalf of the whole of British society. The lords and the baroness breached the trust for a handful of silver. What could be worse than this? The revelations that preceded the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi raised questions about the probity of Indians (read South Asians). It would now appear that South Asians inhabiting a far more rarefied circle than what contractors, builders and sports administrators are used to are equally shameless in their zeal to make the quick buck.

It could be argued that the three peers are no longer citizens of the country of their origin. (The two lords are from India and the Baroness is from Bangladesh.) But that would be disingenuous. They see themselves, and are seen as belonging to, South Asia. Their passports are not their only identity. Those living in the Indian subcontinent cannot in all honesty disown them, despite the fact that they are technically British nationals. It is also futile to argue that peers of British origin are also corrupt and economical with the truth. The spread of the disgrace will not reduce the sense of shame. No one expects a present-day lord to live by the old aristocratic sense of honour, but changed times should not justify a complete disappearance of ethics.


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