Our new Tory Lords?

Stuart Weir
16 October 2009

What does Sir Richard Dannatt, the former Chief of the Defence Staff  who is to be David Cameron's military adviser with a seat in the House of Lords, have in common with Jonathan Porritt, the TV presenter, Kirstie Allsopp, and Stuart Rose, the boss of M&S?

According to PRWeek and apparently one Fiona Mason, managing director of Mandate, a public affairs firm, they are all likely to be made peers by Cameron with 16 other figures in a job-lot addition to the upper chamber of Parliament. I was going to write ‘our Parliament', but that designation is now utterly misleading.  Meanwhile, of course, the customary creep of additions goes on.  Speaker Martin, who sought desperately to cover up the MPs' expenses scandal, has just been 'ennobled'; and Jacqui Smith, whose huge expenses quite dwarfed the meagre cost of her husband's porn movies, will soon add lustre to the red benches. (I remember David Puttnam once looking round the Lords tea-room and saying to me, how proud he felt to be there with the likes of Helena Kennedy. I wonder how he feels now?) 

Having just written a spoof constitution myself, I do wonder whether PRWeek's story is also a joke designed to show how vulnerable Parliament is to manipulation by first one set of party leaders, and then another. For the idea that a party leader could well be contemplating nominating 20 new peers in a batch simply confirms the continuing degeneration of the House of Lords at a time when reform, so urgently needed, is going to be ducked for at least two parliamentary sessions, and no doubt for longer still. Meanwhile new toadies will continue to cram in and swell the internal resistance to reform - perhaps reformers could get together to demand no more additions until that day comes? 

But hey, let's not be too sober.  Fiona Mason is beside herself with excitement and joy, if PRWeek is to be relied upon. I list below, in the language of the trade mag, the names of the chosen ones. Somehow, in all its grisly glitz, PRWeek catches exactly the opportunistic nature of the enterprise. But first let's hear from Fiona on the ‘advanced discussions' that may make unelected legislators of the 20 chosen ones, and ministers of some.

The list:  

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 - 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.'

Does it make your flesh crawl?

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