New Liberal Democrat Peers should be elected by Liberal Democrat members

Editorial note – I forgot to add the critical link to the motion, which has now been restored to its rightful place. Apologies to all…

As Liberal Democrats, we have long supported the abolition of an unelected House of Lords and its replacement by an elected second chamber of Parliament. However, there is little chance of it happening soon, or even in the next ten years.

Until that time, we must carry on with the current House of Lords and at some stage the Leader of the Liberal Democrats will invited to nominate people to sit the House of Lords as working Liberal Democrat Peers to replace those who retire or, sadly, die.

While the Party did at one time have a mechanism for Conference Representatives to elect people to the Interim Peers list from which the Leader would select those to be nominated to become Peers, it has fallen in to disuse and currently new Peers are selected by our Party Leader, using whatever criteria they think fit.

I do not wish to cast any aspirations against any of our past Leaders in how they chose those they nominated to sit in the House of Lords but it is not really good enough for a democratic party to allow one person to have such power of patronage. Even if it does not happen in our Party, many will think that some have been nominated because they are big donors to the Party are have been personal friends of the Leader who has nominated them (this certainly seems to happen in other Parties!).

I believe now, at a time when we probably will not be nominating new peers for a while, is a good time to look at reviving the idea of a list of potential Peers, elected by members, from which the Leader can chose for any new Lib Dem Peers. We should also ask the Leader to use this privilege to make sure that our Parliamentary party has representatives from across all parts of the country and is as diverse as possible.

To that end, I have drafted a Motion for Spring Conference which outlines a process so that every three years Welsh and Scottish Parties, along with the English Regions, each elect five potential Peers to be on the List from which the Leader, along with the Federal Board, can choose new Liberal Democrat Life Peers, taking into account the diversity of our Parliamentary Party, including representation of areas that do not at the time have MPs or other Lords.

You can read the Motion here and also sign it as well. If you have any suggestions as to how the Motion can be improved, please feel free to email me ([email protected]) or just add a comment below.

* Leon Duveen is Chair of Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East, a new group of Lib Dems working to support those trying to a solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict and to providing information about these peacemakers.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters.


  • John Marriott 30th Nov '20 - 9:08am

    There should be NO new Lib Dem peers, period. In fact, there should be no OLD Lib Dem peers either – and the same goes for all the Tory, Labour and Crossbench peers as well. In fact there should be no unelected House of Lords, period!

    There, my morning rant is over. Now for for my porridge!

  • John, read the first two paragraphs.
    Like most Lib Dems, I would love not to be appointing anyone to the HoL, just as I would like PR for the HoC. However, the reality is that the changes needed to make that possible will not happen any time soon. Until it does, having a strong, democratically selected, group of Lib Dem Peers is important.

  • Nonconformistradical 30th Nov '20 - 10:25am

    @John Marriott
    Politics is the art of the possible. We are where we are and we should make use of the system (flawed as it is) to aid in promoting our values. Sniping from the sidelines does no good at all.

    @Leon – I can’t find in your posting a working link to your conference motion

    And I refer readers to an ancient thread here:-

    What DID happen to the Intermin Peers List?

  • Agree with John, we should not be nominating new Peers in any shape or form, let’s set an example.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Nov '20 - 11:21am

    I would prefer to see us not nominating further peers. If we take the number of peers who are affiliated to parties, that is excluding the crossbenchers, bishops, and independents, there are 533 of whom 88 are Lib Dems. Our 11.6% of the vote in the 2019 General Election would entitle us to 62 peers on a proportional basis so we should not nominate any new peers unless our numbers fall below this or we poll much higher in another General Election. We should not use our under-representation in the Commons to seek over-representation in the Lords.

  • David, it seems the link has been lost from the Word document when it was moved into LDV. Here it is

  • Laurence Cox: “I would prefer to see us not nominating further peers” The main winners if we took that approach (assuming we do get to nominate any peers in the near future, which is doubtful IMHO) would be the Tories, because every additional Lib Dem peer reduces the ability of the Tories to control the House of Lords agenda.
    We have to work with the system *as it exists*, rather than the system as we would like it to be. This means using every lever that we can to increase our voice in the system. It doesn’t matter how “unfair” it is if we have more Peers than we should have based on our share of the vote. The whole system is unfair. The only thing that can be done to make the HoL fairer is to reform it lock stock and barrel.

    Any gesture of self-denial by forgoing new representation in the HoL would be a perfect Christmas present for the Tories. It would also make such reform less likely — the Tories would then be very happy to keep the HoL exactly as it is, because us not participating would just make it easier for them to pass legislation there. We need more Lib Dem Peers to make the case for reform.

  • Mike Falchikov 30th Nov '20 - 12:59pm

    Definition of how to get a peerage these days: lose heavily to a LibDem and get fined 9k for exceeding election expenses (I think we all know whom I am referring to). I basically like the idea of voting for a list of potential peers (didn’t we do this some years ago?). I don’t see why we should wait ten years or so for Lords reform. It should certainly be in our next election manifesto as part of a programme of widespread constitutional reform.

  • John Marriott 30th Nov '20 - 1:25pm

    Just had my lunch so I feel like “sniping from the sidelines” by replying to all those of you, who say, “Yes, of course I don’t support the present set up; but…”

    I seem to remember that Lib Dems agreed not to support the concept of Police and Crime Commissioners and yet most local parties now provide candidates. If you believe something is wrong, you need to put your money where your mouth is! I always thought that Lib Dems did politics differently.

    It’s a bit like the rush to get the government limo between 2010 and 2015. In any case, given current voting intentions, it might be argued that the Lib Dems are over represented in the House of Lords in any case. As Roger Daltrey sang; “Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss”.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Nov '20 - 1:51pm

    John Marriott: OK then, do you think we should boycott FPTP elections?
    Lib Dems never said we wouldn’t stand candidates for PCC elections (which we still oppose). Standing candidates does not equal an endorsement of the system.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Nov '20 - 2:24pm

    “It’s a bit like the rush to get the government limo between 2010 and 2015.”

    Actually it’s completely irrelevant. Politics isn’t a parlour game, it’s about influencing policy using whatever instruments are available and useful to us. Government limos and influence as part of government are two sides of the same coin. The problem with the Coalition was not that we entered into it, but how it was conducted by our then leadership.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Nov '20 - 3:12pm


    I would not back the motion as it here, requires only those on the approved candidate list can stand.

    The point of the lords is as a House of less obviously party oriented, in method. The expertise of Lord Attenborough, Lord Winston, Baroness Benjamin, etc, none on an approved list, all party peers, would be no more.

    I say democracy or none. I prefer it appointed if the alternative is a party political in crowd.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Nov '20 - 3:16pm


    The candidate selection, which i have not been through but know lots about, is a very narrow process, as it relies on the decision by a panel of few. People should campaign on a local or national stage, with every member getting to choose. A US system, better than the Uk.;

  • Dr Seth Thévoz, MA (Cantab), MA (Lond), PhD (Warw), FRHistS, part time librarian at the National Liberal Club, co-authored a very interesting article (co-authors Andrew Mell and Simon Radford). Published by Oxford University. On google, downloadable.

    “ ‘Lordy Me’ !“ Can donations buy you a British peerage ? A study in the link between party political funding and peerage nominations, 2005-2014″, published 14 March 2019.

    The Guardian published three very interesting articles, 14 February, 2014. Enlightening reading for all Liberal Democrats……..

  • Lorenzo, Lib Dem Peers should be expected to act as Lib Dem MPs (minus constituency responsibilities), including leading campaigns locally & nationally, helping organise activity and working with their local & reginal parties, and, not least, be spokespeople for party & its policies. The requirements should be just as stringent as those for MPs, i.e. to have gone through our Parliamentary Candidate Approval. I have made exceptions for Councillors, past & present, as they will probably gone through a local approval process and have experience in the work needed.
    Yes there have been some gold among those made peers but there have also been a lot of dross, what as Andrew Lloyd Webber contributed to the HoL?. We are appointing people to legislate on a broad rage of areas not simply give expert advice in certain areas.

  • David, the abstract of the article (downloadable only at £29.95) ends “Compiling an original dataset of large donations and nominations for peerages, the authors show that, when the ‘usual suspects’ for a position, like former MPs and party workers, are accounted for, donations seem to play an outsize role in accounting for the remaining peers.” This is exactly the situation my Motion is trying to counter.

  • I find this interesting, and an odd mix of issues.

    I note the purity issue, but I would ask those who demand purity:
    How when the time comes and the opportunity to abolish the lords comes (it will probably be piecemeal) do the LibDems influence that process best?
    I would suggest that having members of the lords who want it replaced would be a stronger position than not having any members supporting that.

    In addition the LibDems list system that caused the likes of Tony Grieve to get nominated (probably wouldn’t be a natural leader’s choice) is positive, however also sometimes it is important to allow the leadership to nominate key people they need. Perhaps ensuring at least half of nominees need to come from a list.

    I would ask why the restriction to Approved Parliamentary Candidates or councillors on principal councils are eligible. Most people who are likely to be elected will meet the at criteria, but why restrict local parties to that? Are you sure that someone who perhaps got elected in a by-election and served one year is better than someone who has been active for the LibDems in some other way? If you are creating criteria such as this how much to you trust local parties?

    Perhaps the federal board or some such body should also approve the non-list nominees to avoid “friends” getting prioritised and minimise donors getting prioritised, but until the lords is changed you need a way to worth within the system without allowing outright nepotism.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Nov '20 - 4:31pm


    I do not think you realise, the functions are not the same. The lords is not a place for that it is for expertise.

    The candidate selection is elites piking the ambitious. that is not what is wanted, nor should it be, in the lords.

  • There are perfectly good internal devices for recognising distinguished service as a Lib Dem. For the time being we need to have Peers but some pattern of accountability (even if only to their own group) for example, through short individual annual reports, might be beneficial.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Nov '20 - 4:49pm


    If you remove the requirement, you get an open system, otherwise, not.

    What about those who have stood for council, like me, but not won a seat. A candidate for council in an area with no chance for the party, is not approved, though a member years, someone arrives, shines, stands for parliament, and is approved?!

    We need service and gravitas not party insiders.

    I prefer as is unless without the rigidity of false parallels with the Commons.

  • @ Leon Duveen It’s available for free (downloadable & printable) at :

    Is There a Market for Peerages? Can Donations Buy You a … › is-there-a-market-for-peerages ………… the Link Between Party Political Funding and Peerage Nominations, 2005-14. Mar 2015 | 744. Authors: Andrew Mell, Simon Radford, Seth Alexander Thevoz …

  • John Marriott 30th Nov '20 - 5:47pm

    @Alex Macfie
    Funnily enough in recent years that’s more or less what I’ve done in that I’ve been going out to vote and spoiling my ballot. Mind you, where I live no voting system ever invented is ever likely to produce a Lib Dem majority, certainly not in a General Election. The last time I stood for re election (County Council 2013) I scraped in with 33% of the vote, thanks largely to an 80 plus year old UKIP candidate, living in a care home and doing nothing, including failing to turn up to the count, taking enough votes off my Tory opponent to make the difference!

    Mind you, that was better than Andrea Jenkyns MP (the victor over Ed Balls in Yorkshire a few GEs ago) winning on 26% in a County Council Division in Boston in 2009 and then having to resign and force a by election, which, believe or not, she actually won, as she hadn’t realised that, as a peripatetic music teacher at the time, she was actually a County Council employee!

    As for the haste to acquire the government limo, you need to consult my friend David Raw, who, I think, shares my views. Mind you, those Lib Dem ministers were not alone. You want to read Sacha Swire’s Diaries.

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    So, according to you, the Lords is a place “for expertise”. So does that apply to being able to whack a cricket ball or do the odd charity walk? You could have fooled me. I stood “for council” many times and was lucky enough to win every time; but there is no way I would want to wear the ermine, just as I would never vote for any candidate in a PCC election!

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Nov '20 - 7:45pm

    The high-risk, high-profile strategy would be to announce that if the Lib Dem leader is asked to suggest to ‘the Crown’ (ie no 10) who possible peers might be of Lib Dem affiliation, the party will hold a public ‘open primary’ every 2 years to choose that list, and challenge other parties to follow suit.

  • Has anybody got any idea what it costs to run the unelected House of Lords, given 799 members of it with all the on costs of heat, light, staff, cleaning, meals (subsidised) travel expenses, clerical support etc., ?

    And….. I suppose Government Ministers in the Lords get salaries plus the use of limos etc.

    I still chuckle when I read that Lloyd George quote : “a fully-equipped Duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnoughts; and dukes are just as great a terror and they last longer”…… Back then he characterised it as “five hundred men chosen at random from the ranks of the unemployed”…….. and then stuffed it full of 91 ‘donating contributor’ peerages between 1916-22.The tariff ?…… Knighthood £ 10,000, baronetcy £ 30,000 peerage £ 50,000.

    @ John M. The Maundy Gregory biography by Andrew Cook is a good read.
    LLG created 1,500 knighthoods and invented the O.B.E. for those who couldn’t afford the knighthoods or peerage.

  • @David Raw

    The internet suggests that £50,000 in 1917 is roughly £3.5 million today. So if we create say 10 Lib Dem peers…

    Alternatively given the Government is £260 billion in debit that’s only 74,000 peers it needs to create – most of them don’t turn up anyway and you don’t have to give them a vote any more!

    It might have been a rhetorical question but the Institute for Government estimates the cost of running the House of Lords at over £100 million – although only £23 million in expenses to members of the house themselves –

    You might say that that could fund a few food banks but we need to get our priorities right 😉 ! Although I suppose in a way it does – for 500 (I believe 800 now) of the unemployed and probably unemployable.

  • @ Michael 1. In my ideal world there wouldn’t be food banks and people wouldn’t be dependent on charity.

  • @David Raw

    Very good point.

    And we need to get back to Beveridge’s concept that the welfare state is an insurance scheme – we all pay into it when we can and we all take out of it when we need to.

    That said I think there will always be a need for charity – there are some things that charities etc. can do better than the state and we should encourage people to contribute to the welfare and well being of their fellow citizens over and above what they pay in tax. Although I believe in well funded state tax-funded welfare and services. And charity giving is small compared to taxation – about £12 billion a year compared to £800 billion spent by Government.

  • I am not sure in the motion about:

    “Only approved Parliamentary candidates or current & past Councillors on principal councils will be eligible to stand in these elections” [to be on the potential peers list]

    There are people who may prove to be good peers who do not have an interest in becoming a MP or parliamentary candidate or in being or having been a councillor – perhaps particularly from diverse backgrounds. Being an approved parliamentary candidate does indicate a degree of vetting etc. testing of their belief in Lib Dem values and a test of being able to put forward Lib Dem policies in a reasonably coherent way.

    But… if so why does not that apply to Lib Dem councillors. Local parties should have an approval process but its not mandatory and can be fairly perfunctory where it does exist. And I know of Lib Dem councillors who have been a member of or tried to join 3 or even 4 political parties. And there are quite a lot of defections in councillor ranks between all the parties.

  • David Garlick 1st Dec '20 - 10:57am

    Ideally no new Peers would be great. In practice that would reduce our influence in the one arena that we have a big say.
    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
    I think that restoration of Party Members nominating and then voting on their top ten in order to give the Leader a sign post to who he (currently) should put forward, is as good a position that we can take until full national voting on non Party lines (I dream of course) is in place.

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Dec '20 - 2:54pm

    “There are people who might prove to be good LD peers who do not have an interest in becoming a MP or parliamentary candidate or in being or having been a councillor ”

    Quite – there might be people, in tune with our values, who have had eminent careers outside politics who would make good Parliamentarians – maybe precisely because they might not have been deeply involved in politics. I’m thinking for example of the late John Alderson, who stood as a Liberal candidate for Teignbridge in 1983 – after his retirement in 1982 as Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Dec '20 - 3:04pm

    Anything that shows how we would like the HOL to change and distinguishes us from the other Parties is to be welcomed. Some form of joint appointment system between the leader and party members would do. Even better would be allowing members (and registered supporters) to vote with hustings etc.

  • Daniel Walker 1st Dec '20 - 3:47pm

    I tend to agree in principle. I note that the Greens already do this, in fact. (their next nominee will be former MEP Molly Scott Cato)

  • Paul McGarry 1st Dec '20 - 5:36pm

    Sorry what is wrong with the current system of donors and friends?

  • Tony Greaves 1st Dec '20 - 8:48pm

    It worked rather well 20 years ago. (I ought in fairness to add – “Discuss” – but actually it did.)

  • David Evans 2nd Dec '20 - 11:59am

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair free and open society …”

    Can any of those Lib Dems posting here who we should not have Lib Dems in the House of Lords, kindly explain how having even less Lib Dems with a hand (however tenuous) on the levers of power would help in that endeavour?

    Nick tried the idea of decimating our force of MPs and councillors and we got a Conservative government entrenched in power and Brexit. A modest over representation of Lib Dems in the HoL is almost all we have left., but at least they can make life more difficult for Mr Johnson and his political puppet masters.

  • David Evans 2nd Dec '20 - 12:02pm

    Apologies. Second paragraph should begin

    “Can any of those Lib Dems posting here who SUGGEST we should not have Lib Dems in the House of Lords …”

  • Seth, I have read your pamphlet today as I was not aware of its existence before. Happily, the motion I am proposing it almost entirely in line with the Recommendations in it. The only differences are to make the elections Regional, as a way of countering the “big beasts” dominating it and to mandate the Leader to make their selection taking into account giving Peers to Regions with weak Parliamentary representation.
    I hope you will be willing to support the motion and even speak for it at Conference if it is selected.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Dec '20 - 11:22am

    John Marriott 30th Nov ’20 – 9:08amdo?
    Greens elect peers, should we copy that?

    What would the SDLP do?

  • @ Seth Thevoz Many thanks for posting the link, Seth. Instructive reading for any starry eyed Lib Dems.

    Interesting to note the prolific Mr Clegg, and individuals who were turned down . Any info on the small matter of a £ 1.5 million donation as mentioned in the Guardian on 14 February, 2014 and any links with a chain of care home companies ? I gather £ 4,000 from that source appeared in this years Declaration of interests and in the Northern Lights.

    I first noticed the use of the Honours List back in the 1980’s when knighthoods were given to two characters no longer mentioned in polite circles.

    PS. Your article mentions a Chris Foote-Ward. That should be Chris Foote-Wood, late of the party who joined Labour in January, 2018.

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