Noble Lords – The Importance of the House of Lords
By Grahame Woods, Senior Account Manager, at full-service comms agency JBP
The Palace of Westminster is big, full of hundreds of MPs, Ministers, Select Committee Members and countless staffers. People that strive to dominate the airwaves and, for the most part, control the political conversation. As a result, the multitude of members of the House of Lords are often overlooked.
In many ways, this is understandable, as the powers of the Lords are significantly limited compared to the Commons and, unlike the House of Commons, finding Peers who are deeply engaged with Parliament (or your pet policy area) can pose a challenge.
However, engaging with members of the House of Lords, in addition to MPs and government ministers, is crucial for successful public affairs campaigns and policy influencing in the UK.
The House of Lords plays an instrumental role in shaping and refining legislation. As an unelected (and purportedly expert) body, the Lords are less constrained by party politics and are often willing to push for amendments to improve bills, even if they come from their own Party.
Critically, with the House of Lords subject to significantly less scrutiny and public interest, it is often where the government is most willing to make concessions. In fact, increasingly, the government is passing incomplete bills through the House of Commons in an effort to expedite the legislative process, relying on the Lords to refine the Bill into workable law.
As such, a good public affairs strategy must consider both Houses of Parliament. Meet with Lords, brief them on key issues, invite them to events, and get them engaged with your cause.
While day-to-day politics may capture headlines, members of the House of Lords can be powerful allies in shaping policy and regulation in your favour.
Approaching members of the House of Lords as you would MPs is a mistake made too frequently, however. Influencing peers requires a nuanced approach, as each Lord has a different level of activity in Parliament, area of expertise, and general interest in being engaged.
Therefore, your efforts need to extend beyond your well-crafted one-page letter and include well-researched, compelling arguments that appeal to their desire to make a difference. Remember that, unlike MPs, peers do not have publicly funded staff, so you are often communicating directly with the peer and not their gatekeepers.
To achieve this, embrace a three-stage process that consists of finding shared interests, educating and informing, and collaborating and partnering with them. Spend time conducting your initial research and building connections with them around shared goals. These activities will yield rewards later on. Invite them to informal meetings to discuss your campaign and answer their questions honestly, as many of them will likely have more knowledge about the subject than you.
Finally, seek opportunities to work with Lords on a campaign rather than just asking them to advocate for you on your behalf. This will help build a meaningful relationship with Peers, allowing them to become your most vocal champions.
In a nutshell, while the Lords may not have the same legislative power as MPs, their depth of experience and expertise provides an invaluable resource for influencing legislation and government policy.
While the Commons grabs the headlines, the Lords grapple with the details of legislation. As such, if you want to be effective in influencing government, don’t ignore this vital part of the parliamentary process. The Lords may seem like a relic - but they remain a powerful force in UK politics.