Baroness Olly Grender’s maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. On 28 November, Baroness Grender made her maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on broadcast media and its role in the economy. Her words are reproduced below.

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury for introducing this debate. I would also like to thank so many noble Lords for their welcome. The warmth of the welcome is matched only by the warmth of the heating in this place. The advice and support from the staff has been magnificent, but no surprise for regular visitors over the years. Their politeness has always extended beyond the Members of this House, and for that I thank them.

I am honoured to be here, among so many I have admired for so long. In my years of advising others in the other place, and more recently at No. 10, it was never lost on me that the dirty laundry of legislation was often sent to this place only to be returned washed, starched and neatly pressed. It is a testament to a place where many take their public office and their legislative duties seriously. I share and echo that sentiment.

I would like to thank my two supporters. For me, they will always be friends first and noble Baronesses second. Their advice is invaluable. My noble friend Lady Parminter’s wisdom and steely determination belies her youthful looks; under her watchful eye the green agenda will always be strongly defended. Of course, my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester’s patient explanation of affirmative resolution procedures has been something to behold over the years and is an experience not to be missed by any noble Lord.

I would also like to thank my party, the Liberal Democrats. However often I tried to escape, I returned with one more project or task to complete, most recently as the Deputy Prime Minister’s director of communications, or in the 1990s as my noble friend Lord Ashdown’s. My party has given me a great career with fascinating work, inspirational people to work with, and achievements in government which make me proud.

I am sure, like me, most will have received a great deal of advice about when and how to do a maiden speech, most of it contradicting the previous piece of advice. Normally, Thursday seems like an excellent day – not too many people – but the names that are down to speak today are, to a new Peer, like the A-list of broadcasting, and suddenly a debate on a Thursday feels like something in the full glare of the media spotlight. But our UK broadcast media deserve that spotlight. They are unique in quality, partly because of the careful balance we have between our public service broadcasting and commercial – and also because of the expectation in law of impartiality, put so well recently by Alastair Stewart, referring to just one day’s controversial coverage being produced,

as impartially and objectively as we could, with as much balance as we could muster. That, because we have to, in law; but, also, it was because that is how we, who work at ITV News, want to do it … It is our cause and our calling.

As director of communications for Shelter I always understood the special role that broadcast media can play in holding those who are in power to account on behalf of those most left out of power, like homeless people. More recently, the “Question Time” I was on last week, with only three people on the panel, was described in the Daily Mail as the worst “Question Time” ever. Whether that makes me uniquely qualified is probably something best left. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, who was stuck on a train and answering questions on Twitter, was sorely missed on that panel.

This debate necessarily starts with the record we have in public service broadcasting, of which the cornerstone is the BBC. BBC Worldwide is the largest TV programme distributor outside the major US studios, and its impact on the reputation of the United Kingdom overseas is one which increases our ability to trade worldwide and way beyond broadcasting. My noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter’s timing for this debate is perfect, following the amazing weekend marking the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who”. Simulcast in 94 countries, setting a Guinness world record, with record-breaking figures in America, it was event TV drama at its best, delivered around the globe. That thrill of seeing all the Doctors saving Gallifrey is something my eight year-old son will remember until the 100th anniversary.

However, 50 years ago, even if all the noble Lords in this place had popped into the TARDIS – because, remember, it is much bigger on the inside – and travelled back in time and explained the revolution that was coming in broadcast, digital and online content, not even the first Time Lord would have believed it. Even the changes since this sector was last regulated 10 years ago have been revolutionary and the need to update that regulation, but with flexibility, must be coming soon. Thanks in part to that revolution, we now have a creative industry sector in the UK economy providing over 130,000 jobs and over £13 billion pounds in revenue from television and radio combined, delivering both jobs and growth.

In particular, broadcast media has had an effect on the growth of SMEs in the creative sector around the UK. In 2012, Channel 4 alone spent over £150 million on production companies outside London. Levels of innovation and investment are growing. With a publisher/broadcaster such as Channel 4 there to create and innovate, the UK’s independent production sector has grown from strength to strength. Where else in the world would there be a channel which has a statutory remit to experiment and innovate so that it comes up with a programme of people watching TV programmes, makes up a name like “Gogglebox” and then sells it to the Chinese?

Commercial radio, television and new media all add to the mix and create the maelstrom of diversity of ownership and strength of competition that guarantees a vibrant part of the UK economy. Unleashing broadband, especially in rural areas, investing in DAB, giving local radio access to the right kind of digital infrastructure and balancing up the competing needs of different broadcasters from different platforms are all urgent challenges in this area. Fifty years from now, when many more celebrate the 100th anniversary of “Doctor Who” with a new Time Lady, rather than Lord, in the TARDIS, I hope that we will be able to celebrate the continued unique balance of UK broadcasting.

* Olly Grender is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.


    It all exemplifies what a parlous state the party is in nationally, no candidates, nor organisation in many many places, a party going or gone to the wall. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO FACE UP TO THIS REALITY AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

  • David Blake 13th Dec '13 - 5:19pm

    Theakes – I agree.

  • Yes, I have to agree with Theakes and David. North Yorkshire, where two of the elections were taking place, was always a strong area, and not very long since we were in a NOC administration there. No candidates. And Iver, Bucks, from where two of my closest party friends come, and has always been fought strenuously, quite often successfully. Candidate from several miles away – hammered.

  • It’s also true here in the north west. In my borough (Bury), 8 Lib Dem councillors have been reduced down to 2 in the space of 2 local elections. 3 seats, each time. Previously safe wards – gone.

    I find it quite incredible that Clegg’s there talking about how he’s going to broker power, and how he’s doing grown up politics, and how the Lib Dems are a party of government.

    It’s nonsense: he’s presiding over a train wreck, and that should shame him and the rest of the parliamentary party and Lib Dem leadership.

    You guys – the members – you’re not important. You only go out and do all the work. They don’t need you. Clegg told you all that a year or two back. I hope he keeps at it though – I’m meeting more and more ex Lib Dems every month and I’ve still yet to meet one when out canvassing.

  • I did warn about this a couple of years ago, was called a Jeremiah for my pains.
    Clinging onto one or two council by election results, or Eastleigh , to try and pretend their will be no great backlash against the party in 2015 – that’s just sticking heads in the sand.

    Party funds are low, activist base eroded, Lib Dem attempts to look new or different no longer a vote grabber.
    There’s only one way forward, but the leadership are the problem.

  • This is an interesting thread, although not sure what it has to do with Olly Grender.

    But I completely agree with ErnstRemarx, Sandy, Tim13, David Blake and theakes. In particular –

    ErnstRemarx 14th Dec ’13 – 12:28am
    Clegg’s there talking about how he’s going to broker power, and how he’s doing grown up politics, and how the Lib Dems are a party of government.
    It’s nonsense: he’s presiding over a train wreck, and that should shame him and the rest of the parliamentary party and Lib Dem leadership.

    It is a train crash in which Clegg has scuppered the train after dismissing the crew and passengers as unnecessary baggage.
    Clegg has hollowed out the party, discouraged and demoralised the activists, diminished the membership and made us a laughing stock.

    As theakes says –
    theakes 13th Dec ’13 – 3:39pm

  • Tubby Isaacs 14th Dec '13 - 5:38pm

    I’m not exactly a Lib Dem fan (though I hope I’m not a troll either) but I do respect anyone who gets involved in politics at the sharp end. I have an excellent local Lib Dem councillor.

    You’ve been appalling let down by your leadership. When some of you have called out their awful performance, they’ve told you to “grow up”.

    It can’t be good enough.

  • David nation 3rd Oct '14 - 5:28pm

    I am disgusted the one of your peers Olly grender, can turn round and say that she can not manage on three hundred pounds (£300) a day. I think she needs to get a real day to day job and start living like the other 99.9 percent of the population on a wage of £400 a week . With comment like the ones that your peers are coming out with no wonder your supporter are turning to other parties as you have just lost another household vote. As your MPs are showing there true colours.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Michael Cole
    I take your point David. Perhaps we should rightly be critical of the leadership for not nailing the blame on the Cons. But we all know that LDs get way too lit...
  • David Evans
    Michael, Although I agree with your sentiment, indeed I have been saying we need to nail the Conservatives with the blame for many months now, but I haven't see...
  • Denis
    Logically it would be crazy for the Tories to seek a general election in the near future but could Johnson - caring little for the fortunes of his party - go fo...
  • expats
    At least Johnson is consistent.. He has been sacked, for telling lies, from just about every position he's held; it looks as if his lies over the Pincher affair...
  • Gordon
    “What narrative can Liberal Democrats try to craft… ?” Yes! That is the key question. I’m just old enough to remember the 1970s when L...