Thursday 14 February 2013

New Lib Dem peerages: runners and riders

Liberator understands that a large batch of new life peers is shortly to be announced, probably before the end of this month.

The list will include 18 Liberal Democrats, which implies at least 30 new Conservative peers and over 50 new peers in all, since the ostensible aim is to bring the parties’ share of peerages more closely into line with the result of the last general election. This has a certain logic, although it means the creation of a ridiculous number of new peerages, since each successive general election will require the winning party to leapfrog the others.

It is likely that most of the names on the list will be those held over from last spring, when a batch of new peerages was aborted because Lords reform was on the cards. After those reforms were abandoned, there were strong rumours that the list would be revived and announced in November but it was again shelved, for unknown reasons. It now appears that the dust has finally been blown off last year’s list and a few more names added for good measure.

Needless to say, rumours are flying around about who the lucky 18 Liberal Democrats will be. Here is Liberator’s guide to the strongest contenders...

First, there are three people we can be pretty certain will be made peers:
  • Brian Paddick, former senior Metropolitan Police officer who stood as the party’s candidate for Mayor of London in 2008 and 2012. He was rumoured to have been persuaded to run for mayor a second time with the promise of a peerage, and it was surprising he was not included in earlier lists.
  • Rumi Verjee, who has donated £775,000 to the party since the 2010 general election, was reported in the Sunday Times (20 January) to be receiving a peerage. Since that report appeared, the Electoral Commission has given his donations the all-clear.
  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, the party’s treasurer, is the only remaining SDP grandee not yet in the Lords. His inclusion in the list would come as no surprise; the only question is why it took so long.
That leaves 15 other names to guess. Let’s start by examining who is on the party’s Interim Peers Panel, a pool of people elected every two years for a four-year term as someone the party leader is under no obligation to ennoble.

The term of office of the 30 people elected to the panel in 2008 expired last year and only three of them received peerages (Jonathan Marks, Monroe Palmer and Ben Stoneham). No one was elected to the panel in 2012 because the party’s Federal Executive cancelled last year’s scheduled panel election, when Lords reform looked a serious prospect. The FE then inexplicably failed to reinstate the election when Lords reform was abandoned.

The result is that, while normally the party would always have two lots of members on the interim peers panel, the 15 people elected in 2010 are the only ones. Of these, only one (Sal Brinton) has so far been given a peerage. Of the remainder, only three seem even remotely likely to be made peers:
  • Chris Bones, management consultant and a close ally of Nick Clegg, who was commissioned by Clegg shortly after becoming leader to produce a report on reforming the management of the party.
  • David Boyle, writer and thinker, former editor of Liberal Democrat News, who has recently written a report for the government on choice in public services.
  • Mike Tuffrey, former group leader on Lambeth Council and the London Assembly.
The best way of ensuring a place in the Lords was traditionally to be a former MP. The trouble is that there are now too many of them for this to be a guaranteed route and, besides, many of those who left the Commons in 2010 have been openly critical of the Clegg line.

Of those who resigned or lost in 2005, most have already received peerages: Richard Allan, John Burnett, David Chidgey, Brian Cotter, Nigel Jones, Archy Kirkwood, Jenny Tonge and Paul Tyler. Of the remainder, Matthew Green is an unlikely recipient. That leaves only two others:
  • Sue Doughty, former MP for Guildford, who tried and failed to regain her seat in 2010.
  • David Rendel, former MP for Newbury, who turned down the offer of a peerage in 2005, then tried and failed to regain his seat in 2010, and recently announced he would not stand again.
Of those who resigned or lost in 2010, only Susan Kramer, Matthew Taylor and Phil Willis have so far received a peerage. Of the remainder, Mark Oaten and Lembit Öpik are out of the running for obvious reasons. Willie Rennie now leads the party’s group in the Scottish Parliament. John Barrett, Colin Breed, Paul Holmes, Paul Keetch, Paul Rowen and Richard Younger-Ross seem outside bets. That leaves four others:
  • Sandra Gidley, former MP for Romsey, who resisted attempts to be drafted in to fight the Eastleigh by-election.
  • Julia Goldsworthy, former MP for Falmouth & Camborne, who currently works as a SpAd for Danny Alexander at the Treasury. She is only 34 so would be almost the youngest ever life peer if appointed.
  • Dr Evan Harris, who oddly did not seek renomination to stand again in his Oxford West constituency.
  • David Howarth, former MP for Cambridge, who would however have to be persuaded to spend less time in academia.
There are also former MEPs to consider. Two stepped down last year in mid-term but one of them, Diana Wallis, resigned in controversial circumstances and is unlikely to make the list. The other, however, must be considered a very strong contender:
  • Liz Lynne, former MEP for the West Midlands and former MP for Rochdale.
Since the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections, there have been quite a few ex-MSPs knocking around. One of them looks a strong contender:
  • Ross Finnie, who was an MSP from the beginning of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, and served as Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs in the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Senior local councillors are another pool of talent, and there are four whose names stand out from the crowd:
  • Barbara Janke, who stepped down as leader of Bristol City Council last May.
  • Richard Kemp, a Liverpool councillor who was until recently leader of the party’s group on the LGA (Local Government Association).
  • Paul Tilsley, group leader in Birmingham and deputy leader of the city’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition administration until last year.
  • Chris White, group leader in Hertfordshire and a member of the Audit Commission.
Those who have held senior office within the party are sometimes given peerages and Sir Ian Wrigglesworth has already been mentioned. Two other recent office-holders look promising:
  • Duncan Brack, former chair of the Federal Conference Committee who went on to serve as a SpAd for Chris Huhne and has recently been appointed as one of the vice-chairs of the manifesto working group.
  • Duncan Greenland, chair of the Finance and Administration Committee and a former Camden councillor.
Nick Clegg has been keen to use peerages as a means of boosting the number of women in parliament, and there are a few names at the top of the rumour pile:
  • Olly Grender, who has been a senior press officer and communications adviser in the party for over 20 years, most recently in a temporary spell working for the Deputy Prime Minister.
  • Deirdre Razzall, who was editor of the party’s weekly newspaper Liberal Democrat News for many years until it finally closed last November.
  • Julie Smith, Cambridge councillor and academic, who is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and a number of policy panels.
  • Alison Suttie, who has been chief of staff both for Nick Clegg and for Irish MEP Pat Cox when he was President of the European Parliament.
Overall, we can expect the list to be weighted somewhat to women and ethnic minority people, but weighted heavily to loyalists irrespective of gender or race. There will be one or two unexpected nominees whom you or I have never heard of. All the new peers will be expected to serve full-time (unless of course they have been unusually generous donors).

Whoever is chosen, however, yet another big batch of new peers will displease existing members of the Lords. Thanks to David Cameron’s record-breaking numbers of new peerages, there is not enough office space and members are finding it increasingly difficult to table questions or get called in debates. The House of Lords already has 760 members (with a further 52 on leave of absence or otherwise disqualified from sitting), making it the second largest parliamentary chamber in the world after the Chinese National Party Congress. There will be at least 50 more peers on the new list, taking the total beyond 800.

The ballooning costs and increasing practical difficulties will surely hasten the very thing the Tories don’t want: Lords reform.


  1. This reminds of of that time when YouGuv or whatever it's called asked people to nominate themselves as People's Peers. My manifesto was that as an Australian resident I would require very little in the way of attendance fees, and when I did rock up I could be relied upon to talk exclusively on cricket and red wine, and eschew any offers to get dragged into discussion of more serious topics. I made it into the second round of voting, thus demonstrating, if further proof were needed, the essential good sense of the ordinary voters of our green and pleasant land. Stephen Yolland

  2. Little frogs have bigger frogs upon their back backs to bite 'em, and bigger frogs have..................and so ad infinitem............
    Simon, a very astute piece.............shurely some mistake that you left off...........Wally?

  3. Isn't David Rendel seeking selection for Richmond Park?

    David Bertram


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