Friday, 22 November 2013

How Many UKIP Peers Should There Be?

One thing I have seen recently is that the Government's Programme for Coalition contained this commitment:

We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is re£ective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

I have already had a look at the (now aborted) plans for House of Lords reform and how it could be salvageable.

The current distribution of life peers in the House of Lords is:

  • Labour - 217
  • Conservative - 173
  • Liberal Democrat - 95
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 2
  • Ulster Unionist Party - 2
  • Plaid Cymru - 2
  • Independent Liberal Democrat - 2
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 1
  • UK Independence Party - 1
  • Independent Conservative - 1
  • Independent Labour - 1
  • Independent UUP - 1

There are in this list Independents who have lost/resigned the party whip. In addition there are non-affiliated peers, who are distinct from the Crossbenchers.

Some of these can be allocated to party groups:

[* Kalms is a bit debatable. He was a Conservative, but was expelled after encouraging people to vote for UKIP at the June 2009 elections to the European Parliament.]

Next we have the ineligble peers. One of these, the Liberal Democrats' Sarah Ludford, is disqualified as she is a Member of the European Parliament for London.

The ones we are interested in are party peers on a Leave of Absence:

With this, we can now give a number of life peers for each party (whipless and non-affiliated ones could return, as could those on Leave of Absence or disqualified):

  • Labour - 241
  • Conservative - 184
  • Liberal Democrat - 100
  • Ulster Unionist Party - 5
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 4
  • Plaid Cymru - 2
  • UK Independence Party - 2
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 1

The next stage is to look at the results of the May 2010 general election:

Party Life peers Votes Votes per peer
Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party 189 10,806,115 57,175
Labour 241 8,609,527 35,724
Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 100 6,879,586 68,786
UK Independence Party 2 919,546 459,773
British National Party 0 564,331 N/A
Scottish National Party 0 491,386 N/A
Green Party of England & Wales 1 265,247 265,247
Sinn Féin 0 171,942 N/A
Democratic Unionist Party 4 168,216 42,054
Plaid Cymru 2 165,394 82,697
Social Democratic & Labour Party 0 110,970 N/A

Now, you'll notice that the number of votes for some parties doesn't tally. In Northern Ireland, the Conservatives and UUP fought as a single party - and the UUP does have quite a high number of peers for its vote, which doesn't reflect its recent electoral collapse - and the BBC also counts John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Buckingham in the Conservative tally.

I have combined the Liberal Democrats and APNI, noting that former APNI leader, John Alderdice, takes the Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lords.

The BBC totals ignore the fact that there are 3 Green parties in the United Kingdom - there are separate ones in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

With this we find the lowest number of votes per peer is Labour's 35,724. If this ratio applied for all parties then we would have:

  • Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party - 302
  • Labour - 241
  • Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland - 193
  • UK Independence Party - 26
  • British National Party - 16
  • Scottish National Party - 14
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 7
  • Sinn Féin - 5
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 5
  • Plaid Cymru - 5
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party - 3

We currently have 539 party life peers - the above would raise it to an unmanageable 817 (an increase of 278).

Now, not all of these parties would accept peers - the Scottish National Party and Sinn Féin would not - but this can be worked around. For example, the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland could be asked to nominate 14 and 5 Crossbenchers respectively. If the Social Democratic & Labour Party doesn't take its peers, then Labour should appoint 3 peers from Northern Ireland, such as Belfast-born Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall.

The thought of BNP peers turns my stomach, but that is democracy.

So, how many extra peers would each party get?

  • Conservative/Ulster Unionist Party - 113
  • Liberal Democrat/Alliance Party of Northern Ireland - 93
  • UK Independence Party - 24
  • British National Party - 16
  • Scottish National Party - 14
  • Green Party of England & Wales - 6
  • Sinn Féin - 5
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party - 3
  • Democratic Unionist Party - 1*

[* The BBC suggests that William Hay, DUP Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, might become a peer next year.]

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