I was intrigued by last week’s list of 10 new Lib Dem appointments to the House of Lords. As longstanding readers of this blog will know, I was one of the people who helped develop the Lib Dem system of electing an “interim peers panel” from which the party leader gets to choose the majority of appointments. Every party leader has railed against the constraints of this system and tried to get around it wherever possible, but even I was surprised that only one out of ten new peers this time around was from the list.
So I decided to have a little look at what the current party policy on appointing peers is. Lib Dem Voice said that a report was due at the 2013 spring conference but I couldn’t find anything. But I did find the following in the Federal Executive report (pdf) published for the autumn conference taking place in Glasgow this autumn (emphasis mine):
Interim Peers Election Panel
At the beginning of the year, the FE also established a working group on Internal Democratic Reform, whose first task has been to look into a replacement for the Interim Peers’ Election Panel.
Last year, FE came to the conclusion that given (at the time), we were hoping for a more wholesale democratic reform of the Lords, and that the Peers List was not operating as well as might have been hoped, the existing list would stand until we could produce a more appropriate replacement. This replacement is intended to be in place for elections in autumn 2014.
Our group, chaired by Sue Doughty, is consulting widely on this process, and will be distributing a consultation paper and holding a fringe at Glasgow to ask for input from members. A final motion will then be brought to Conference in spring 2014. Given that we haven’t yet succeeded in convincing the other two parties of the need for democratic reform of the Lords, I hope that you will be engaging in this process with Sue to ensure that the process we end up with is a fair, free, and democratic as
our party always aspires to be.
All of that is fair enough; I’m the first to admit that the current system is not perfect. But it bears absolutely no resemblance to the list of appointments made last week. And however imperfect the current system may be, it is infinitely preferable to simply appointing whichever millionaire donor happens to want their ego stroked.
I’m amazed that the Lib Dems allow themselves to have the mickey taken out of them by their leader like this every time. No doubt the Federal Executive will shuffle its collective feed extremely vigourously over its authority being usurped once again – and then do nothing.
More than anything, the thing that made me want an elected second chamber was dealing with Lib Dem peers – especially over lobbying and Lords reform. Patronage is a poison that infects the brain of even the greatest democrat. It is a sad thing to see.
UPDATE: I should have worked out who is or isn’t on the list myself before posting.
In fact, two of the peers appointed last week were on the interim peers panel: Brian Paddick (who was elected), and Ian Wrigglesworth (who was on it by dint of being a former MP). In my defence, it is a nuance between considering an elected person to be on the list and including the “ex-officio” members as well. It is indirectly linked to above, but the paper outlining the process can be found here. As far as I’m aware the party has not revised the process since then, but since it refuses to publish the rules then who can really say?
Let’s try that again. I’ve just updated the spreadsheet that I set up a few years ago. It turns out that Brian Paddick was elected in 2008, and so the four year rule means that technically he was no longer on the panel by summer 2013. A very generous interpretation of the rules could however be made that it was allowable on the basis that the party (after establishing that Lords reform wasn’t going to, um, happen), decided to not hold a ballot in 2012 – and thus the previous two lists (2008 and 2010) still apply. Ian Wrigglesworth most definitely is on the panel however – being a former MP is for life.
It appears the party has interpreted the rules regarding ex-MPs to include MSPs and AMs. That never was the case however, and you can see from the list of people who have got elected to the panel over the years that it includes former MEPs. If they aren’t eligible, why are MSPs and AMs?
Horribly overblown article you link to there. Given a choice between David Allworthy and Donnachadh/HuffPo for accuracy, in this case I’d go for David:
I don’t know if the full current list is online anywhere, but my general approach of assuming David’s correct unless given conclusive proof otherwise is normally a good one.
5 out of 10 isn’t great but isn’t terrible.
The party refuses to publish the rules (which is also unbelievable, but that’s an aside) so until it does we will have to depend on the version I published:
To be fair, it is true that under these rules Iain Wrigglesworth is included on the list – I’ll update the article to make that clear. However, the word in the original document is “Former Liberal Democrat MPs” so that doesn’t include Christine Humphreys (Ex-AM) or Jeremy Purvis (Ex-MSP).
Olly Grender most definitely does not apply. She was elected in 2006 and the FE was quite emphatic at the time that 10 years was too long for staying on the panel and it was reduced to 4 years.
I’m not getting into any silly arguments about whether David Allworthy or myself are more “trustworthy”.
“5 out of 10 isn’t bad”,
surely the whole point of the system is to ensure that there is a list of acceptable, useful additions, so why are there any not from that list? I have to say looking at the list of those going in I certainly have a few issues with the caliber. 5 out of 10 sounds pretty damn poor to me.
Of course all of this is putting aside the fact that the chamber itself should not exists and continue to swell like a cancerous growth on our democracy.
You are right that the consultation paper is not out yet, but it will be very shortly. The FE in 2010 agreed to include former Parliamentarians (ie Westminster, Scotland, Wales and Europe)on the list. Cathy Bakewell and Ian Wrigglesworth bring strong regional experience (SW and NE respectively.
My concern isn’t that the consultation paper hasn’t been published but that the FE published a report to conference stating that the existing list still stood in the same week that Nick Clegg directly contradicted that. It makes you look foolish.
What is the point of a consultation for a new policy if it will only be ignored like the existing one?
James, sorry if my late night comment was worded badly enough to make it look like I’d take David’s word over yours that strongly, it was meant as a comparitor to HuffPo’s notorious innaccuracy. I’m fairly sure that the rules were amended at a conference I was at to change “MPs” to “Parliamentarians” or similar in order to specifically include former AMs, MSPs, etc—I may be wrong on that one, but if I’m correct, then so is David, and 5 would therefore be correct.
However, yeah, I hadn’t drilled down and it does mean that only two’re on the elected list, and I definitely recall it being explained to me it was elections every 2 years for 4 years on the list, making someone eleceted in 2006 off by a bit. But since the actually agreed rules aren’t published anywhere we can get to (although I think they are in the elections pack, not that I get one of them anymore), it’s daft.
Ergo, I withdraw my other comment, 5 out of 10 would be OK if those 5 were mostly those elected, having one out of five on the list, and that one would’ve been appointed by Clegg anyway, seems to make the whole procedure utterly pointless and ignoring the procedures of the party in a much more OTT manner.
Mat, I totally should have fact checked the central claim of that article before publishing – and I enjoyed doing so – so no harm done.