Did you spot the Liberal Democrat in David Cameron’s Resignation Honours?

Really. There was one:

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 00.45.02

There’s a surprise. Lena Pietsch, Nick Clegg’s former Special Adviser when he was Deputy PM, gets an OBE.

This is what the Standard had to say about her two years ago when they named her one of the most influential people in London.

Nick Clegg’s director of public relations
The happiest Lib-Dem in Britain on July 13, German-born Pietsch was celebrating her team winning the World Cup. On maternity leave during the summer, having given birth to her second child, she continued to advise Mr Clegg from home, including on using Twitter to appeal to women voters. An ex-journalist, she was key in persuading the DPM to do his Call Clegg show on LBC Radio.

Cameron has done what Nick Clegg failed to do last year. When he announced his dissolution honours, female Special Advisers were conspicuous by their absence, as Jo Swinson wrote for us.

What is depressing and wearily familiar, however, is the missing women.

But surely our Lords list is balanced?  5 out of the 11 nominations (45%) for the peerage go to women, which is progress I suppose – of the 40 people nominated to the Lords under Nick Clegg’s leadership, just 17 (43%) were women.

And 45% women wouldn’t be so bad if the existing Lords group was well-balanced, but of our 101 Peers, just 35% are women – so we’re still far from equality.

If in 2015 when we have a 65% male Lords party and a 100% male Commons party, we can’t even appoint 50% women to the Lords, what message does that send about how seriously we take equality?

Personally, the last thing I’d want to be doing right now is joining the House of Lords, but I’m delighted that Lynne, Dorothy, Sharon, Shas and Lorely will be, and we have loads of talented women in the party who would make a brilliant contribution there.  Any argument suggesting we just don’t have the women to nominate is complete nonsense.

The picture is slightly better on race, but still a missed opportunity.  1 out of 11 (11%) on this latest list is not white, which is an improvement on the 8% figure for our Lords group currently, but behind the 13% in the general population.  It is worth noting recent progress on ethnic diversity in our Lords group – under Nick’s leadership 15% of his 40 nominations went to people from BME communities.

Turning to the rest of the honours, where women are just 4 out of 15 (27%) on the Lib Dem list, I’m at a loss to understand why, for example, the utterly brilliant Polly Mackenzie, Lena Pietsch, Jo Foster and Hollie Voyce go unrecognised.   It’s as if the contribution of the women is invisible.

Every Prime Minister uses their resignation honours to give honours to those who have taken their journey with them. I can see that.  The sooner the House of Lords is reformed the better, though. This just reminds us that the Prime Minister has the power to appoint people  to Parliament for life. And Tories, unlike, Lib Dems, are unlikely to vote for themselves to be abolished.

Tim Farron was none too impressed with the Dave’s List:

David Cameron’s resignation honours list is so full of cronies it would embarrass a medieval court. He is not the first Prime Minister to leave office having rewarded quite so many friends, but he should be the last. For the reputation of future leaders, such appointments should be handed over to an independent panel.

There does need to be a public debate about this. On the peerages,there is an argument that people who have experience of the workings of Government would be useful in Parliament. If they are that good, though, why don’t they just go ahead and stand for election? That’s what Ed Balls did, and  some bloke who was a SpAd to Norman Lamont when he was Chancellor. Cameron, I think his name was.

What do you think? Frankly it pains me that Cameron was in a position to nominate anyone for anything. He did, after all, decide to hold an unnecessary referendum which would be horrifically damaging to the country, to heal the divisions in his own party. He gambled with our futures and lost. That is not something to be proud of.


UPDATE: I’m told the reason that Lena wasn’t honoured in last year’s last year’s list was that she wasn’t a British citizen at the time. There was an agreement that once she was, she would receive her OBE>

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Just what, pray, merits an OBE for this person who worked for the DPM?

    (Presumably she got paid for doing said job?)

  • Wasn’t Julian Glover on the list too?

  • If you take that to its logical conclusion, Crewegwyn, nobody would ever get an honour for anything done in their paid job.

  • Julian Glover is Cameron’s speechwriter, not a Lib Dem, is he?

  • If it’s the same Julian Glover who was former leader writer on the Guardian & is married to Matthew Parris, then he was an active Lib Dem in Islington back in the day. Last I heard he’d become a civil servant & is presumably politically restricted these days. But it could always be someone else of that name …

  • I understand she worked for the party for years, going back way before the coalition, and was dedicated and brilliant. So seems well deserved to me!

  • Simon Banks 6th Aug '16 - 9:48am

    Crewegwyn is right. No-one SHOULD get an honour for doing their job. No-one should get an honour.

  • “There does need to be a public debate about this.”

    There was a significant lack of critical comment – including on here – when LIb Dem MPs were filling their boots with honours in the coalition years.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Aug '16 - 9:43pm

    Honours were debated in the early days of the party because all policy needed to pass through conference once a membership database had been established after the Owenite split. Tunbridge Wells abstained because Enid Lakeman had an OBE.
    What really matters is getting people into parliament/s.

  • Christine Headley 7th Aug '16 - 11:20pm

    *Representatives from* Tunbridge Wells, I take it. Conference has representatives not delegates and they can’t be told how to vote.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Aug '16 - 8:13am

    Christine Headley: Please pardon my brevity – flood protection. In the early days of the party we were knitting together the Liberal tradition and the SDP tradition. The local party had meetings before and after conference but we were not mandated. That was a Labour Party tradition which Shirley Williams had opposed vigorously in our new party. In the case of Enid Lakeman it was mainly about respect.
    I am sad to note the absence of Susan Thomas who chaired the English Candidates Committee after the merger. She was present on an occasion when the National Liberal Club debated the House of Lords. Tory grandee Lord Carrington had been invited to speak as an hereditary peer. I pointed out what he had said in his memoirs about being elected as a county councillor in Wycombe and the comments of others county councillors about the principle of election. Susan had been a Surrey county councillor and weighed in to his continued embarrassment. A separate vote was allowed on abolition, but defeated.

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