While I’m sure most of the readers here have been enjoying the recent constitutional trials and tribulations of West Belfast’s very own Green Baron, there have been interesting developments on the other side of the city regarding the status of (a real) Lord.
Lord Empey a Conservative, Cross-Bencher or UUP peer?
According to the appointment list, a Conservative.
According to the official parliament biographies, a Conservative.
According to the House of Lord list, a UUPer.
According to the man himself (from The News Letter, not online):
The politican veteran, whose full title will be Baron Empey of Shandon, said that he was sitting on the House of Lords cross benches, along with fellow UUP peers.
The confusion about which party he would be entering the Lords with stemmed from his appointment, where Conservative Prime Minister put him forward for a peerage.
Asked about the report saying that he was sitting as a Conservative peer, last night Lord Empey said “That’s wrong. I’m sitting on the cross benches.”
Lord Empey said that he “receives” the Conservative whip, meaning that he is encouraged to vote with the government, rather than “taking” the Tory whip, which would compel him to vote with the government in key votes.
Technically (as Lords Maginnis Rogan and Laird discovered two years ago) it is not possible for him to be a cross-bencher as he is still a UUP member; so he is a UUP peer full stop. Coincidently, history buffs may also remember when the UUP’s MPs were involved in similar weighty discussions about “receiving” and “taking” the Conservative whip.
So… bearing in mind the appointment details have gone unchallenged (at least in the public sphere) since last November why bother to clarify it now?
There are certain theories which may or may not be true…
However, the more pertinent question, in my opinion, is whether Lord Empey should be even considering standing for the Assembly at this important juncture in the United Kingdom’s history. Only last week he was involved in the marathon debate in the HOL on the various voting reform changes (including the introduction of the AV electoral system) the Coalition is wishing to introduce.
There are many more such topics affecting how our nation will be governed (the ongoing saga of the British Bill of Rights and the EU Bill for starters) which will be hitting the Lords this term and it is surely the responsibility of those selected to sit there to be ready to fully participate in those debates and discussions?
Especially for a Unionist like Lord Empey, shouldn’t the changing constitutional status and future of the United Kingdom now take paramount status over the parochialities and regionalist squabbles at Stormont?