Opinion: We should elect all Liberal Democrat nominees to the House of Lords

In 2012 House of Lords reform failed. In 2013 it’s time for Liberal Democrats to show their continuing commitment to democratic reform.

We clearly can’t get the law changed at the moment but we can make a clear, unambiguous statement of intent. It’s just simple democracy and it’s easy; the membership should elect the Liberal Democrat candidates for the Lords. One simple motion at the party conference and a bit of commitment from the leadership is all it takes.

Well of course it’s not that simple, so let’s examine a few of the arguments against and the counter arguments:

This is just internal party business why bother with it?

The point is to make a public statement of our principles and our intent. Done properly it is a strategic political move.

Do we believe in democracy or don’t we?

The public won’t see our internal elections as having any particular legitimacy

This is a necessary first step towards wider electoral reform.

It demonstrates that we have real principles and are prepared to act on them.

The majority of the public are either hostile to Lords reform or think that it is irrelevant; we need to focus on issues that resonate with large sections of the public

Absolutely, but we need to do this as well

We will never persuade anyone of the need for Lords reform unless we demonstrate our own commitment to it.

The leadership should be allowed to appoint at least some candidates

That would be a gift for our opponents.

The membership elects PPCs and council candidates; what is so special about the Lords?

We risk losing the experience and expertise of senior party figures and of other excellent candidates

There is no reason why they could not stand for election.

There are other roles in the party.

Some excellent candidates are unwilling to put themselves up for election.

Ditto councillors, MPs, MEPs etc.

When we do achieve Lords reform, candidates are going to have to stand for public election.

The world is in crisis; we should be focussing on dealing with that.

The work to set up the welfare state was done in the middle of a World War. If they could do that then, we can do this now.

We already have an interim peers panel election process in place

An excellent starting point. Now let’s finish the job.

Our selections could be vetoed during the appointment process

We would have a panel of candidates, so individual rejections wouldn’t be any more of a problem than they are now.

Elections cost money.

We should be willing to put our money where our mouths are.

Why not just get on and do it?

If you can think of a really overwhelming counter argument then let’s hear it.

* Alan Levy is a Lib Dem member/activist and an ex-councillor (with ambitions to drop the “ex” bit at some point) living in Cambridge.

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15 Comments

  • I love the structure of this article, tho I think the “answers” could be a bit longer as they may come across to others as a bit glib – but I like it.

    And I think you’ve won your case with me – tho I’d ask would Prospective Peer Candidates be elected on a local party basis or by all-members, I’m not really in favour* of the current conference rep elections for FPC and FCC and would prefer those to be all-member / OMOV (one member one vote)

    *tho a part of it as I’m a conference rep.

  • Sadie Smith 16th Jan '13 - 4:28pm

    I liked the bit of flexibility given by the use of the Interim Peers list.

  • The obverse of this rationale is that it would inevitably limit the pool to the usual suspects; the rentagobs that pop up all the time, preventing the leader from nominating less high profile but potentially more useful people with particular skill-sets.

    The general thrust is ok, but I think there is still a case for allowing the leader to nominate say 10% with the proviso that these are not just ex MPs , advisors etc

  • Election of future Lib Dem peers by party members is not quite so simple as it looks. Our membership is predominantly from England, so are we likely to elect a proper proportion of peers from Scotland and Wales ?

  • Richard Shaw 16th Jan '13 - 5:35pm

    We could take a leaf from our EU Parliament candidate selections and choose candidates regionally, with each region having a population-proportional allocation of Peers based on the total number of appointments we get to make.

  • Peter Andrews 16th Jan '13 - 7:22pm

    A regional list system based on STV sounds like a good idea so long as we get the number of Lords from each region correct.

  • paul barker 16th Jan '13 - 8:01pm

    I agree 100%, especially with the amendment of making election by regional lists. We could also build in a measure of gender equality, minimum 40% say. Lets do it.

  • Well argued. Good luck.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Jan '13 - 8:44pm

    It would be a good opportunity for members to elect a list that would create more diversity among the Lib Dem Lords. Overall appointments by this Leader and previous ones has made the gender balance worse rather than better, for which there is no excuse.

  • Peter Hayes 16th Jan '13 - 9:13pm

    I am not totally convinced about regional lists. We need a balance of experience, doctors, scientists, historians, time served politicians etc. can we get that by regions or does it need to be national and perhaps some way of balancing knowledge and experience against existing members. Of course that is a different question from should they be elected and how do we select candidates.

  • Charles Beaumont 17th Jan '13 - 2:16am

    Great idea. Perhaps we could persuade some cross benchers to present themselves on similar terms.

  • Totally agree with this proposal. Lets have less patronage and more democracy in the party.

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