I have just produced a leaflet for Peter Maughan who is standing for the peers' panel. (4 times parliamentary candidate and twice European candidate.) Applications close tomorrow and no doubt there will be a surge of people wanting to go into the House of Lords. No harm in that but I do feel this system of electing the panel could be improved.
It is meant to be democracy in action and shortly a paperback of aspiring candidates' details and pictures will be landing on conference reps' doormats. Though this is a rolling election, I don't think it is the best system we can have. 2 sides of A5 is hardly enough to tell people about the qualifications of a person to be considered for membership of the Lords and it does nothing to set a minimum standard threshold people should be expected to reach, as we have with PPCs. And is it that much of an exercise in democracy when only conference reps etc get a vote? With such a limited electorate and a large number of places being elected in one go, the threshold to get elected to the panel in terms of votes is modest. A person who is known at conference can gain sufficient to win a place on the panel.
It may well be that every single person who stands would make a productive and exemplary member of the HoL. But not getting elected to the panel will close off most routes to the membership of the upper house.
My preference is to have a panel from whom the Leader can select new peers as we have now. But why not do it in the same way as we have the panel for PPCs, with people applying to go on but needing to demonstrate they have reached a minimum standard on issues such as knowledge of policy and media experience. Members reaching this required standard, having successfully gone through the panelling process, would automatically become a member of the panel. There is no need to restrict the size of the panel and members throughout the country could be involved with the panelling process, again just as with approving candidates.
I think the sentiments behind having a panel of prospective peers and electing them to it is right - extending member involvement with the processes of the party is a good thing. But on the peers' panel, I feel it can be improved and widened, therefore leading to a wider range of high quality candidates to choose from to represent the party in the Lords.
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