Democratise the House of Lords
A list of names of potential Tory peers is floating around the web today following a story on the PR Week website. If the Conservatives win the next election, or perhaps even more significantly (in terms of the Lords role) in the event of a hung parliament in which the Conservatives are the largest party, David Cameron will have the traditional powers of privilidge to start stuffing the Lords full of cronies. The 20 names currently being suggested are detailed below. The Conservatives are committed to a fully elected House of Lords. In the transition towards this, which will take several years in all likely hood, why not demonstrate commitment to the democratic principle by only nominating Councillors to become Lords. Whilst their mandate would not of course be to serve as Lords, they at least have some democratic legitimacy, and direct accountability to citizens, through their local mandate. Appointing Councillors would not mean compromising the breadth of experience of the Lords as there are Councillors with backgrounds in every walk of life. This would have the added benefit of further demonstrating the Conservative’s commitment to localism by directly empowering the new Cllr Lords to come into the heart of Westminster and Whitehall to bring a localist challenge to government’s centralist tendency. If there is any interest, I could draft up a list of 20 Conservative Councillors who could be put forward, or maybe ask the Conservative Home blog to consider doing this. In the meantime, here is the list circulating today:
1. Sir Peter Gershon – Government efficiency expert. Being considered for a Ministerial role making some of the toughest spending-cuts decisions facing an incoming Conservative administration.
2. Stuart Rose – Marks & Spencer Chairman whom the Tories plan to recognise for both his business acumen and his profile amongst the corporate responsibility community thanks to Marks & Spencer’s “Plan A”.
3. Jonathan Porritt – Friend of the Prince of Wales and environmental campaigner. Being considered for post Copenhagen summit roving “Green Envoy” role.
4. Michael Spencer – Critical lynchpin of Conservative election planning, leading party “ambassador” to the City and responsible for restoring Conservative financial health in his role as Party Treasurer. Cameron wants to keep those relationships friendly in the first few tough years of a new Government.
5. DeAnne Julius – Chair of Chatham House and former member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, will add significant gravitas – and gender balance – to the Conservatives in the House of Lords.
6. Angela Knight – Former Conservative MP and current head of the British Bankers’ Association. Her appointment will send a signal to the banking sector that the Conservatives plan to work with banks to encourage recovery and seek to avoid demonising them. But it also shows that the Conservatives want a banking “insider” to help sell their vision for the new regulatory regime.
7. Ann Widdecombe – A reward for years of service in the Commons and also a symbol to the right wing of the Conservative Party that David Cameron has not forgotten that they helped his rise to the leadership.
8. Sir Howard Bernstein – Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, host to this year’s Conservative Party Conference.
9. Sir Richard Dannatt – Former Chief of the Defence Staff. Respected for his independence; David Cameron hopes to rebuild bridges between government and the military brass that have strained under Labour.
10. Sir John Tusa – Not a natural Tory, but as the leader of the Conservative Taskforce on the Arts in 2007, Tusa is an ambassador between the Conservative Party and the naturally left-leaning arts establishment.
11. Bill Emmott – Former editor of the Economist and commentator on the growth of Chinese economic and political power. Being considered to advise the Conservative frontbench foreign policy team.
12. Sir Alan Haselhurst – Recognition that there is a continued role for this respected Conservative Parliamentarian who had, until just a few months ago, been considered the favourite to become Speaker of the House of Commons.
13. Sir John Major – Previously refused a peerage when offered. Now being convinced to take the position to give “elder statesman” support to a young new Prime Minister.
14. Harpal Kumar – Whilst the Cancer Research UK CEO will be at pains to retain his independence, the Conservatives are keen to make a strong gesture to the campaigning community by elevating this leading charity sector figure.
15. Jill Kirby – Director of the Centre for Policy Studies and responsible for advancing Conservative thinking across a range of policy areas.
16. Robin Wight – Advertising industry legend (and President of Mandate’s parent communications group, Engine). A former Conservative Parliamentary candidate. Mooted as a link to the creative industries and symbol that the new Conservative Party is not afraid to include a man whose wardrobe includes purple and pink Oswald Boateng suits.
17. Sir Simon Milton – Central figure of the new Conservative local government establishment.
18. David Ross – co-founder of the Carphone Warehouse and another senior business figure who has been close to the Conservative leadership.
19. Tim Berners-Lee – The man behind the World Wide Web contributed to Labour’s Digital Britain, but the Conservatives want his credibility behind their policies to implement the next stage in the country’s digital development.
20. Kirsty Allsopp – Presenter of Location, Location, Location, famed for her pashminas, Allsopp has already been advising the Conservatives on housing matters. The daughter of a Peer, the Lords should hold no fear for the famous property developer, and her elevation would add a populist touch to proceedings.