It’s been revealed that a proposal to save taxpayers money by making the House of Lords and House of Commons share a catering department was rejected “because the Lords feared that the quality of champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service”.
It might take you a while to digest the sheer breathtaking callousness, arrogance and snobbishness of this. However, once you have passed through the various stages of reaction that I did – slack-jawed disbelief, hysterical laughter, genuine anger – I invite you to share with me a brief analysis of why this illustrates just how out of touch the governing class are from the people whose lives their decisions affect.
Obviously there is the mind-boggling elitism and disdain towards the less privileged which is revealed here. During a time of food banks, unemployment and waves of benefit cuts, when the rest of us are supposed to accept austerity lying down, the mere mention of a change to peers’ taste in bubbly is met with uncomprehending scorn. This is the thing that first cuffs you in the face. And there are only further, follow-up slaps to come.
We already suspected the House of Commons was disproportionately posh, with its overwhelming number of privately schooled members, its ludicrous expenses claims, and patronising tweets about white van men. But new, dizzying heights of snobbishness are revealed when we realise that, to members of the House of Lords, even this privileged bunch is considered too plebeian to have a trustworthy taste in champagne.
There’s also the unspoken assumption that during times of austerity there should be a budget for champagne at all, in either House. I don’t know about you, but I have never worked for a company that had part of its budget ring-fenced for sparkling wines, let alone roughly £65,000 a year (for the House of Lords alone). Is there something different about running the country which requires all that bubbly? Maybe it provides peers with the Dutch courage required to clock in for just a few minutes each day to claim their £300 daily attendance allowance?
It would be bad enough if our taxes were being spent on the champagne fund belonging to a group of people who didn’t have the capacity to enact any real harm on society. But let’s not forget, this a gathering of people who are predominantly white, male, and wealthy, and worse yet - entirely unelected. Despite this, our country’s lords still have the power to block and delay government legislation.
This needs to change, and the first step should be an imposed austerity on their £1.3M annual catering budget, starting with the complete abolishment of champagne. If they complain about the lack of bubbly I have a handy tip – try adding value lemonade (under 50p) to a large bottle of Liebfraumilch (under £7 for 1.5 litres) for a cheap alternative. It may not taste like Cristal but it does the trick, and after the first three glasses you can’t tell the difference anyway.
This advice is free by the way. After all, we’re all in it together, right?