Opinion: Why no UKIP Peers?

House of Lords chamberBy surrendering the principle of proportionality we surrender part of ourselves

The Coalition Agreement stated that “Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election”. It is therefore difficult to justify why UKIP, having secured over 3% of the vote at the last General Election and only currently having 3 of the over 500 Peers aligned to a political Party, has not been given the opportunity to have ennobled a cohort of Peers of its choosing. The same is true for other minor parties.

Few projects tie British Liberalism together throughout the ages as much as its ambition for wide ranging political reform. At the previous General Election the Party’s commitment in this area was once more a key plank of its campaign and, seizing upon the spirit of the time, ‘cleaning up politics’ was placed as one of four key priorities on the manifesto front cover. However, after three years in Government, politics doesn’t look much cleaner.

While the Fixed-term Parliaments Act has been introduced – ensuring that the Prime Minister cannot call a General Election and cut and run at our expense – and while Scotland’s independence referendum will now be open to those aged 16 and 17 years old, few other meaningful reforms have been achieved. The AV referendum was lost; moves to elect the Lords collapsed; Party funding reform has been kicked into the long grass and the lobbying Bill won’t change very much. This might paint a depressing picture, but of course these objectives have hit the rocks of entrenched privilege. As a Party however, we need to be able to explain the lack of proportionality in newly ennobled Peers – positioning ourselves as victims of circumstance isn’t credible when Lib Dems are in Government setting the rules of this particular game, and benefitting from new appointments in such a partisan way.

The lack of an explanation from our leadership (Nick Clegg is the Government’s Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform) about why the principle of proportionality (as offered by the Coalition Agreement) has not been adhered to undermines many decades of consistent Liberal support for a more balanced parliament, as well as principles current Liberal Democrats have asked they be elected to advance. Is this what was meant by becoming a Party of Government – becoming increasingly like the parties we have tried to evict and entrenching ourselves? I dearly hope not.

In the foreword to the 2010 Manifesto Nick Clegg wrote:

It is time for something different. It is time for something better … Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises: be more demanding.

With two of the Lib Dems’ latest Peers having also donated significant sums to the party, perhaps we should hope people don’t hold us to what we put on paper. Lib Dems have no monopoly on political reform and soon they may not have very much credibility on the matter either.

* Paul Pettinger is a Lib Dem activist of 25 years and currently a Westminster Borough member. He serves on the Council of the Social Liberal Forum, sits on the Council of the Electoral Reform Society and has recently joined the Management Board of Compass.

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11 Comments

  • david thorpe 6th Aug '13 - 2:24pm

    there are several UKIP peers?

  • nuclear cockroach 6th Aug '13 - 3:18pm

    “The lunatic scheme Clegg promoted for Lords reform ”

    The proposal put forward by a committee of fourteen peers…

  • The UKIP members in the HoL are Malcolm Pearson, David Stevens, and hereditary peer David Verney, all defectors from the Tories. I wouldn’t call that “several.”

  • Certainly the LDs and UKIP are the parties committed to the obviously more democratic PR system. Probably many UKIPers commitment is fairly recent and equally Simon Hughes reaction on the broadcast of the council elections where he repeatedly said the LDs were still the 3rd party despite fewer votes, because they held more seats, did not look like a principled commitment.

    However on the gripping hand the Lab/Con commitment to FPTP or indeed opposition to any sort of Lords reform proposed is clearly putting party interest before any trace of principle.

  • Richard Shaw 7th Aug '13 - 7:19am

    Perhaps the requirement, not totally unreasonable in my view, is for Parties to have at least one MP before being elligible for Peers. That would explain why the Greens got 1 but no UKIP. If not then I would demand some Raving Looney Peers… but they seem to have already exceeded their quota. 😉

  • David White 7th Aug '13 - 11:19am

    Godfrey Bloom MEP would make a marvellous life peer. His deeply intellectual thinking would contribute greatly to British life and government. Bloom’s expertise on crime and punishment, on foreign aid and on women would prove invaluable. His wit would leaven what is sometimes a stodgy loaf.

    Alternatively, Mr Bloom could be appointed ambassador to Zimbabwe. I feel sure that President Mugabe and Ambassador Bloom would become close friends.

  • nvelope2003 7th Aug '13 - 11:56am

    David White – Many a true word spoken in jest – at least the last paragraph.

  • Clear Thinker 7th Aug '13 - 1:05pm

    Even the future ambassador to Zimbabwe may be speaking in baby talk, he is nevertheless voicing concerns that many people have, that the priorities of recipients may not be the same as our own, and that we need the money too. Even if we make sure that our aid goes to a worthy cause, such as a school or hospice, that can sometimes simply allow the recipient to spend the money they would have spent on the cause, on something else.

  • Lord UKIP of bongo bongo land? 🙁

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