Liberal Democrat Peers: they’re your secret weapon, if only you’d use them!

Last week, the outreach programme of the Parliamentary Party in the Lords moved into its next phase. There is, unfortunately, a catch, in that, through no fault of their own, the earlier phases haven’t reached quite as far as they might have hoped.

The campaign for Liberal Democrat Peers to make one thousand constituency visits before the 2015 General Election continues – Suffolk Coastal were very hospitable – but too many Local Parties seem oblivious to the possibilities that nearly one hundred (very occasionally) ermine-clad Parliamentarians, with four thousand years of service to the Party between them*, can offer. I do get that – after all, until I met them, I didn’t give them much thought either.

And yet, the Lords has emerged as a place where liberal principles are defended and concessions wrung from often resistant Conservative (and occasionally Liberal Democrat) Ministers – there is a good story to be told. It was in the Lords where NHS reforms were resculpted, and much more besides. Backbench Peers are only too willing to ask searching questions and test policy proposals and, whilst Party members may not always think about lobbying them, there are plenty of campaign groups out there who have no hesitation in doing so – they understand their significance.

Meet-the-Lib-Dem-Lrds.jpgSo, on Thursday night, the Lords’ Whips Office organised an event for Commons and Party staff to meet with Peers and get a feel for what they do, and can do, for the wider Party, and your correspondent was there to see how things went. It was interesting to see how young most of the attendees were, and it dawned on me that, if a week in politics is a long time, and you’re young, the Parliamentary Party in the Lords might seem a bit, how might I put it, irrelevant.

Over drinks and nibbles, Peers mingled with a good-sized crowd, answering questions about what they do and how, about opportunities to raise issues, or follow up ones of concern to the constituency their MP represents, about the expertise that exists on everything from transport policy to foreign affairs, from climate change to fisheries, if only someone would ask.

My sense was that the event may well lead to better co-ordination between the Parliamentary Parties at either end of the Palace of Westminster, which can only make both more effective in achieving more liberal successes in the remaining eighteen months of this Parliament.

But there is more, which is where you come in, gentle readers. Why not take up Dick Newby’s invitation, and invite a Peer to speak at a Local Party event, or ask them to raise an issue on your behalf – especially useful if you don’t have a Liberal Democrat MP? Remember, Peers aren’t bound by the conventions of constituency boundaries and can ask any question they like, either orally in the chamber, or in writing.

* According to Dick Newby’s reckoning. Given that Derek Ezra joined the Liberal Party in 1936, I wouldn’t bet against it…

* Mark Valladares is Liberal Democrat Voice’s self-appointed Lords Correspondent and Readers’ Editor.

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12 Comments

  • I think local parties rely too much on those they see as their local peer. I love David Shutt to bits – he’s the bluff Yorkshireman’s bluff Yorkshireman – but I think we in calderdale do tend to rely on him over much.

    Certainly something to consider anyway, Mark. OFC calderdale always happy to welcome Baroness Scott and her consort.

  • lloyd harris 12th Nov '13 - 12:39pm

    Mark – can you post in the private forum the contact details for the Lords whips office so people can invite a peer to their local area

    thanks

  • Geoffrey Payne 12th Nov '13 - 1:07pm

    I recommend Kate Parminter to talk on food policy.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 12th Nov '13 - 3:21pm

    Lloyd,

    Will do when I get home!

  • James Moore 12th Nov '13 - 3:40pm

    This sounds great. Two questions:

    1) What is the process for requesting a peer to speak at a local party event?
    2) What is the process for requesting a peer to ask a question on your behalf?

  • Richard Boyd OBE,DL 13th Nov '13 - 3:17pm

    MP’s and MEP’s are already overloaded and have to focus on re-election for
    themselves or their successors.

    Lord/Baroness is a title that, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, will get
    more than a good table at a restaurant – it will get local media attention in the
    letters page, or a reporter to attend a function at which the title is a feature,

    Use our HoL resource as the secondary armament on the election battleship.

    Richard Boyd

  • A Social Liberal 13th Nov '13 - 5:44pm

    Funny that this comes out on the same day as a 38 Degrees campaign asking us to contact any peers we know.

    I think I will !

  • Over the past couple of days, I’ve tagged spending time with local campaigners on to visits to Cardiff and Oxford, which was easily done (for me) and generated both campaigning activity and media coverage.
    I can’t reiterate too strongly how keen our group in the Lords is to do much much more of this.
    If you would like a Peer to visit or wish to pursue a Parliamentary questions, contact our office in the Lords – either Laura Gilmore or Polly Martin – [email protected] or [email protected].
    (The 4000 years estimate is accurate, based on Peer by Peer research!)

  • James Moore 28th Nov '13 - 9:17am

    The email address for Laura Gilmore does not work, and Polly has not replied to my email. Is there any other way to take advantage of what this article suggests we should do, please?

  • Sadie Smith 6th Dec '13 - 5:15pm

    If you know something about a subject area, it used to be possible to feed it in.
    Late husband used to put in health questions/ideas. And Mental Health Act has a bit of white space in it on the advice of an academic lawyer who met Peers. But you do need credibility.

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