In the last reshuffle, David Cameron made Tina Stowell the leader of the House of Lords. But, astonishingly, he didn’t make her a full member of the Cabinet, giving her only the right to attend. This, understandably, outraged peers; they quite rightly feel that the leader of the second chamber should be in the Cabinet. It also led to jibes that Cameron was paying a woman less to do the same work as a man, her predecessor Jonathan Hill had been a full Cabinet minister and had the salary to go with it.
In an attempt to dampen this story down, it was announced that Stowell’s salary would be topped up from Tory party funds. But this, again, angered peers. They complained, with justification, that the arrangement was undignified and inappropriate as Stowell is expected to represent the interests of all members of the upper house, not just the Tory ones.
Tonight, Stowell has—to her credit—said that she won’t take the salary top up. But the fact that the government has got itself into this mess is a sign of the lack of respect for constitutional propriety in Downing Street. It should have been clear to those drawing up the reshuffle that failing to make the leader of the Lords a full member of the Cabinet was going to prompt a backlash from the other place.