Sunday 16 June 2013

Those Lib Dem peerages in full

A new batch of Liberal Democrat life peerages is imminent once again. A front-page report in today’s Sunday Times headlined ‘Cash for peerages row hits Clegg’ names some of them. (The report is hidden behind a paywall but is quoted by Liberal Democrat Voice and Liberal Burblings).

The wealthy donors accused by the Sunday Times of ‘cash for peerages’ are Rumi Verjee and Sudhir Choudhrie, although the paper reports that Choudhrie has been dropped from the proposed list of peers. Verjee was the subject of another Sunday Times report on 20 January.

Rumours of the new life peerages have been around for at least a year. A list of new peers was drawn up more than a year ago but was shelved when it looked like the House of Lords was about to be reformed. Indeed, so certain of reform was the Liberal Democrats’ Federal Executive that it postponed last autumn’s scheduled election to the party’s Interim Peers Panel.

After the blockage of Lords reform by Tory MPs, the Federal Executive failed to reinstate the election. Meanwhile, rumours resurfaced last November of a new list of peers. This list was shelved for mysterious reasons.

Then this February, we reported the imminent announcement of the list, which included 18 new Liberal Democrat peers. Again, the announcement was postponed for mysterious reasons.

Now, we understand that the list may finally be announced, and it is less than half the length of earlier versions. The Sunday Times says there will be 20 new peers, of whom seven will be Liberal Democrats; the report names six of them:
  • Olly Grender
  • Liz Lynne
  • Brian Paddick
  • Alison Suttie
  • Rumi Verjee
  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth
From separate sources, Liberator has heard there will be not seven but ten new Liberal Democrat peers. Besides the six people named by the Sunday Times, the other four are expected to be:
  • James Palumbo
  • Julie Smith
  • A Welsh peer (expected to be Christine Humphreys, President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and a former member of the Welsh Assembly)
  • A Scottish peer (not known; Elspeth Attwooll or Ross Finnie, possibly?)
Whether there are seven, ten or eighteen new Liberal Democrat peers, the creation of yet more new peerages will serve only to further overcrowd a crowded House of Lords. The number of peers will exceed 800, making the Lords the world’s largest legislature after the Chinese National People’s Congress. Perhaps the Lords chamber should be renamed the Great Hall of the People?

Postscript: Today’s Observer has news of a report by the Electoral Reform Society, which predicts that, following the 2015 general election, the number of peers could increase to over 2,000 to satisfy the principle of balancing the number of peers in accordance with the previous election result. This prediction may be an exaggeration, nevertheless the exponential growth of the Lords can only hasten reform.

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