Friday, 28 August 2015

Dissolution honours

A full list is here.

Firstly, I am very happy for Ian Sherwood from Briton Ferry who would deserve his MBE for services to local government in his native patch alone, in spite of physical handicap from birth. Ian also did sterling service in Liberal Democrat HQ, in Simon Hughes' Southwark and Bermondsey constituency and latterly in the office of Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister.

With a few exceptions, I am not so happy with the new peerages. They are too obviously compensation for shoddy treatment in government or rewards for services rendered in most cases. (Is it too cynical to suggest that Mr Hain might not have been awarded his if he had not promised to support an establishment candidate in the Labour leadership contest?) It is hard to see what special qualities most of the nominees bring to the Upper House, apart from improving the political balance - and incidentally swelling the numbers. It would be hypocritical of me not to include Nick's choices in that criticism, much as I admire Lorely Burt and Sir Alan Beith.

I would except Sharon Bowles, who will bring her experience of chairing an important European Parliament committee and her knowledge of EU finance to the Lords. There is still too little informed debate about the EU in parliament, even in the Lords. Housing and local government are somewhat better served, but Andrew Stunell will bring an extra dimension with his experience on both sides of the government divide. Lynne Featherstone was an outstanding fighter for women's rights who was gaining an international reputation, especially in the field of FGM, in spite of the obstacles put in her way by conservatives in government. One trusts that her title will empower her.

As to the Conservatives, there is a good case for William Hague, who in addition to his FO experience is a former senior management consultant and, with his Yorkshire roots and Welsh connections, at least will bring a breath of non-metropolitan air to the chamber. Sir George Young was the best Leader of the Commons in a generation and was shamefully demoted, but is that a good enough reason for ermine? David Willetts was the most intelligent of the Conservative ministers, but is that quality sufficient justification for preferment?

Finally, congratulations to Vince Cable for his knighthood. I take this as a sign that he is prepared to fight for a Commons seat again, when he was surely a prime candidate for a peerage. Also, to Annette Brooke on her damehood, to Hilary Stephenson for the OBE, and to the other LibDems who I do not know so well for honours which they have deserved.