12 Jul 2012

Lib Dems ditch elections to Lords

OK, my headline’s a touch misleading, but it’s also true in a way.

The Liberal Democrats have long had a quirky system where every couple of years members at their annual conference elect a panel of names for the party’s future peerages.  In practice, it’s a bit of pick-and-mix system, which leaves the decision very much in the hands of leader. Sometimes he picks names from the elected list; and sometimes he ignores them. But over the years quite a few of those elected to the panel have made it into the House of Lords.

The next panel of names was due to be elected at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton this September. But that posed a bit of a dilemma. If the party was earnestly engaged in trying to reform the Lords, wouldn’t it look a bit odd if they carried on merrily assuming the old system of appointed peers was still in place? And a system under which the upper house seemed to get bigger and bigger whilst the Commons is about to be cut back in numbers?

So the Lib Dem high command has quietly decided this year to abandon its election for future peers (much to the disappointment, no doubt, of quite a few hopefuls).  So my headline is justified. Sort of.

Oh, and you may recall some months ago various stories that the government was about to appoint a whole new batch of mostly Tory and Lib Dem peers – about 60, it was reported, or at least 25. I’m told those plans, too, have been abandoned, simply because it would have looked a very odd thing to do at a time when the coalition is having so much trouble getting its Lords reform plans through.