Lib Dems set to name 7 new peers for House of Lords, says Sunday Times

rumi verjeeToday’s Sunday Times front page (£) splashes with a ‘Cash for peerages row hits Clegg’ headline. The reality is slightly less exciting: Rumi Verjee, a prominent donor to the Lib Dems, is apparently top of the list of seven names put forward for peerages:

Rumi Verjee, a multimillionaire who brought the Domino’s pizza chain to Britain, is top of a list of seven names compiled by the Lib Dems who are expected to be awarded honours within weeks. He has given £770,000 to the party since May 2010. … Verjee used a firm called Brompton Capital to donate to the Lib Dems. Until recently Brompton was owned by Integro Nominees (Jersey) Ltd, based in the Channel Islands, also a tax haven. It is now believed to have been brought onshore. Verjee’s name was one of those submitted by the Lib Dems to the House of Lords Appointments Commission earlier this month. The commission, which vets potential peers, is considering around 20 names put forward by the three main party leaders.

Rumi Verjee was last in the limelight when Labour MP Michael Dugher demanded the Electoral Commission investigate his donations: he was cleared by the Electoral Commission within a month. The bulk of his donations to the party support the Leadership Programme, ‘designed specifically to identify, develop and support some of the best candidates from under-represented groups within the Party’, and are linked to his wider philanthropic activities through his international humanitarian charity, The Rumi Foundation.

The paper names five of the other people it believes to be on the Lib Dem list of likely new peers:

  • Alison Suttie, Nick Clegg’s former deputy chief of staff;
  • Olly Grender, former Lib Dem Communications Director;
  • Brian Paddick, the party’s London mayoral candidate in 2008 and 2012;
  • Liz Lynne, former Rochdale MP and former MEP for the West Midlands; and
  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, founder SDP member and the party’s current treasurer.

No hint, though, as to the identity of the seventh Lib Dem soon-to-be-peer. Guesses below-the-line are welcome, especially if well-informed!

It’s been a cumbersome process to get to this point. A year ago, the party still hoped its preparations would be for an elected second chamber, not adding to our number in the unelected House of Lords.

Last autumn’s internal elections for the Lib Dems’ interim peers panel were cancelled in the wake of the Tories and Labour torpedoing Lords reform. The party said it would bring forward proposals at the Spring 2013 conference. Well, if it did, I missed them: again, anyone want to fill in the blanks below-the-line? [Update: David Allworthy has left a comment answering the question here.]

As a result, the most recent list of elected Lib Dems for the leader to consider for the Lords dates back to 2010: results here. None of those mentioned by the Sunday Times are on the elected list (though Sal Brinton, who topped the poll, has since been made a peer).

The paper lists one other putative peer who’s apparently been dropped from the current list:

Sudhir Choudhrie, whose family has donated £650,000 to the party since 2004, has been placed on an internal party list of future peers. Until three years ago Choudhrie, who has personally given £95,000 of that sum, was not domiciled in Britain for tax purposes. … Until this month, Choudhrie’s name appeared on a draft honours list prepared by Clegg’s office. Party sources said that “it has dropped off the shortlist and is now on a longlist”.

Everything would, of course, be much simpler if the second chamber had any democratic legitimacy. But in lieu of that — and I wouldn’t put any bets on the Lords being abolished in the next decade at least — the party needs to devise a more transparent system for nominating its own peers.

That can’t be 100% internal democracy — not everyone who’d make a good working peer will stand for election or would get elected if they did; and it would be unlikely to be a very diverse list, either — but it needs to be more than a nod-and-a-wink from the leader’s office as well.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • If I were looking for a reason to leave the Party (I’m not), this list would be good enough on its own.

    I only know three of the five listed. They are not ‘bad’ people and I am sure neither are the other two. But to suggest they (and our Domino donor) are the correct people to be chosen as Lib Dem legislators is sub-laughable. But then, how were they chosen? 🙁

  • Robert Bleakley 16th Jun '13 - 11:57am

    If the Sunday Times story is true I’m absolutely delighted that Sir Ian Wrigglesworth is finally to be made a member of the House of Lords. Its an honor long over due.

  • David Allworthy 16th Jun '13 - 12:00pm

    Both the 2010 and 2008 Interim Lists are still valid under the FE decision last Autumn they were both extended to 2014. The FE agreed to bring forward new proposals for the next elections in 2014. The working group is progressing this and in fact reporting back to the FE on Monday night.

  • It’s disappointing that the Sunday Times isn’t aware of the work that Rumi puts in for the Leadership Programme – it is so much more than his generous donations, important as they are. He is one of the key people supporting candidates in very practical ways, coming to training, Q&As and mentoring individuals. He also helps to find other mentors from outside the party who can provide business and leadership advice. So whilst he isn’t known to everyone at Conference, his personal commitment to helping get more Libersl Democrat ethnic minority, women and disabled candidates has been outstanding.

  • @Sal Brinton

    “It’s disappointing that the Sunday Times isn’t aware of the work that Rumi puts in for the Leadership Programme – it is so much more than his generous donations, important as they are. He is one of the key people supporting candidates in very practical ways, coming to training, Q&As and mentoring individuals. He also helps to find other mentors from outside the party who can provide business and leadership advice. So whilst he isn’t known to everyone at Conference, his personal commitment to helping get more Liberal Democrat ethnic minority, women and disabled candidates has been outstanding.”

    Interesting. But how does any of that make him an appropriate Lib Dem legislator?

  • Foregone Conclusion 16th Jun '13 - 1:39pm

    Lord Tall of Headington?

  • If Sunday Times telling truth than it is very very sad It shows that Lib Dems will not promote Asians unless they are millionaire Last year they make millionaire Loomba a Lord This time it look like they make another millionare Rumi Lord No point for Asians to work hard for many many years for this Party

  • The Observer today carries a worrying report suggesting that after 2015 (assuming a severe drop in our support), that other parties will have to nominate many more Peers, to successfully outvote our “immovable block”, leading to well over 1000 Peers in all (they suggest nearer 2000, given that UKIP break through in a fairly meaningful way). So it seems a little counterproductive to keep on nominating at this stage, especially as it looks 1 like we are happy to take advantage, despite being opposed to a nominated Hof L, and 2 Those nominated look like friends of the great and the good – “crony politics” as we have rightly criticised in other parties!

  • David Evans 16th Jun '13 - 4:04pm

    If Nick wants to make a clear commitment to democracy, Nick must select the vast majority (I would say all but one) from the interim list. If on the other hand he thinks that cronyism is more important, he may select from elsewhere. If less than half come from the list, it is another slap in the face for the rank and file of the party membership.

  • Sorry but – the guy brought Domino’s Pizza to the UK? GIVE HIM A PEERAGE ALREADY HE IS CLEARLY A LEGEND!!!

    (for one thing, he’s probably done more for the welbeing of students in Higher Education than scapping tuition fees ever would)

  • Tim13: Far from making appointing Lib Dems counter-productive, the fears of some that a future Lords might need to see huge numbers of new appointments is a great side-effect. The more people worry about the Lords getting ludicrously large in the future the better – because that strengthens the case for democratic reform. It’ll only get ludicrously large if those who claim to fear it also then insist on walking away from the solution.

  • paul barker 16th Jun '13 - 6:56pm

    @ Tim 13, I for one am not assuming anything about the next General Election. Our Party has a great story to tell if we have the courage to tell it.

  • Brian Paddick was on the 2008 list (still in force). Olly Grender was on the 2006 list (not in force but I’d be tempted to say that there is an element of following the spirit. Ian and Lynne fall under the “prior Parliamentarian” provision.

  • If the side effect of appointing new peers is the need to create even more to overcome a third party “block” then all the better. If this highlights what a busted flush the management of appointments to the House of Lords has become then bring it on.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Jun '13 - 9:46pm

    If this list is accurate then it’s a shame Nick isn’t putting hi money where his mouth is and appointing more women, given his speech at the last conference:

    “But there is one area where we have not provided enough opportunity for women – in our own ranks. We need more female councillors, assembly members, MSPs and MEPs. And we need more women Liberal Democrats MPs.

    “I’m proud that we’ve already selected Julia Cambridge in Chesterfield, Claire Thomas in Hull, and Judith Bunting in Newbury. I’m proud that Layla Moran, who spoke so passionately and eloquently at our last conference rally in Brighton, was the first of our Leadership Programme candidates to be selected in Oxford West and Abingdon.

    “And you’ll hear from another of our fantastic female Leadership Programme candidates, Sarah Yong, this evening. I know she’ll be hugely impressive on stage tonight. But she’ll be even more impressive when she’s in Parliament.

    “Our job now is to get these women, and those we select in the coming months, elected. And my challenge to you – in every selection committee you sit on, with every candidate you support and every vote you cast – is to consider how you can help us change for the better.

    “When I speak to our leadership programme candidates I know that the future of our party is bright. When I saw the huge numbers of young people pile through the doors of our HQ in Eastleigh, I could see that the future of our party is bright.

    “We must be a more diverse party. And we will be a better party for it.”

    Appointments to the Lords is the one lever Nick has open to him as Leader to actually improve the gender balance of the parliamentary party and, if he believed his own rhetoric, he’d use it.

  • Fiona Hall is retiring shortly and certainly deserves it.

  • If true, very pleased for Ian Wrigglesworth.

  • Ben Jephcott 17th Jun '13 - 2:35pm

    If this is confirmed – and the Liberator article suggests this information is not just a kite-flying exercise – this will at long last mean the party leadership has closed the democratic deficit represented by the lack of a peer in the West Midlands region (and I think the whole of the Midlands) for so many years.

    The last active Lib Dem peer we could partly lay claim to was the much-loved Stephen Ross, the former Isle of Wight MP who as Baron Ross of Newport retired to Shropshire, but he died 20 years ago.

    After so many years at the coalface Liz Lynne certainly deserves it, and would very probably have been elected if any conceivable variation of Lords reform had been delivered.

    We will benefit from her expertise and determination in amending and improving legislation in the Lords and also her high profile as a woman Parliamentarian in the region.

    The others certainly have a contribution to make, Brian Paddick on policing in particular. Still a bit London-centric though!

  • paul barker 17th Jun '13 - 3:16pm

    It seems like astrong list, my only quibbles would be –
    why not more women
    why only 7, we arent going to get anything like a proportional share at this rate.

  • ” Still a bit London-centric though!”

    And always will be as it’s next to impossible to combine a job with being a working Peer if you live/work outside London

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jun '13 - 5:07pm

    I’ve got a good progressive idea: move parliament to the middle of the UK.

  • Ben Jephcott 17th Jun '13 - 5:27pm

    There are a queue of people in the regions from under-represented communities who are on the interim peers list, talented and willing to do the job. And who would very probably win regional list PR selections if they had been granted.

    Eg Qassim Afzal, as an experienced BAME candidate with excellent media skills. I hope he emerges as one of the ‘others’ referred to by Liberator, rather than developers like Palumbo.

    The Domino Pizza man seems well-intentioned but I would not rate his contribution as quite so important or longstanding. Qassim would be more effective than our current, somewhat low profile Muslim peer and has good connections in the North West and the West Midlands region too … I helped run his Sparkbrook campaign years ago.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jun '13 - 5:46pm

    I don’t see how referring to a candidate as a BAME candidate is equality. Unless you go down the equal but different path, which I don’t believe in. Of course same goes for women and any other categories people want to split peers into.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Jun '13 - 6:20pm

    Interesting that no-one tells us who is coming!

    From all the rumours it looks as though the gender balance will be 50-50 which is the minimum we should expect.

    Complaints? – if the ten are true. Only one Councillor or ex-Councillor?? Where are the people from the North of England and Midlands? Regional balance is not provided simply by appointing the odd Welsh or Scottish member.

    As for quality we will as always judge new members by what they do. But the fact that there are any new peers being appointed to the already bloated House of Lords is just ridiculous.

    Tony Greaves

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Jun '13 - 7:04pm

    Eddie: “I don’t see how referring to a candidate as a BAME candidate is equality”

    Eddie, I don’t know why this kind of thing exercises you so much. The only reason people keep talking about “BAME” and female Parliamentarians is because these groups are still under-represented in both Houses (especially women, who are massively under-represented).

    Likewise, the only reason people don’t refer to MPs as being white males is because there are so many of them, it would be superfluous.

  • ISHvinder Matharu 17th Jun '13 - 10:11pm

    Good Luck to them all!

    We will only know in 3 to 5 years if they have been effective and sincere. Those on the list that I have met or worked with, lead me to be optimistic.

    As for Lord A Adonis’s idea of moving HoL to the Midlands – it is a good thought, but will never happen.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jun '13 - 10:18pm

    Stuart, sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much about it, but I can’t help it.

    Having critically analysed my own thinking (and no not for the first time!), I can now see why diversity and not just merit should be a factor in peer selection.

    Funnily enough I arrive to this conclusion, initially but not solely, from my knowledge of investments: diversifying an investment portfolio can improve overall return, but not if poor quality investments are used just for the sake of diversifying. Politics is kind of similar because it brings people in with different backgrounds and experiences.

    I’d still be against aggressive diversification criteria such as quotas, but at least I can now see a bit more light on why it matters in politics so much. Perhaps I need to make this case to business people too! 🙂

  • Stephen Donnelly 17th Jun '13 - 11:54pm

    The depressing thing about this list is that the criteria for selection seems to be membership of the political – media establishment . The present party structure has failed the membership again..

  • As I recall, one negative feature both of the Interim Lists still in force and of predecessor Lists was that because our internal party electorate is predominantly English, few if any candidates from Scotland and Wales managed to get on them. If therefore the current list of peers does include a new Scottish peer and a new Welsh peer, that is certainly something on which Nick Clegg can properly be congratulated.

  • Ian Patterson 19th Jun '13 - 11:37pm

    Quelle Horreur. Nearly choked when reading liberator article today. we do not need more millionaires in ranks in lords, however ‘active’ they have been in party.

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