Saatchi and Rogers are plum signings for upper chamber
New working peers: List spans glamorous names from business and public relations to loyal party workers and voices from ethnic minorities
Chris Blackhurst writes regular columns for The Independent, i and The Independent on Sunday, and conducts weekly interviews for London Live TV. Blackhurst was City Editor of the Evening Standard for nine years, before becoming Editor of The Independent for two years. He was then promoted to Group Content Director, and in September 2014 he took on the multi-media business role. He’s won numerous awards for his journalism.
Wednesday 21 August 1996
Alongside the likes of dames Joyce Anelay and Hazel Byford, tireless Tory servants, come the superstars of the advertising and architecture worlds, Maurice Saatchi and Sir Richard Rogers.
While Mr Saatchi's devotion to the Tory cause is well-known - as is that of his fellow media guru, Peter Gummer, also made a working lord - Sir Richard's allegiance to Labour has been more private. Undoubtedly a plum signing for New Labour, Sir Richard's growing prominence as a design and style icon will bring a flash of brilliance to the Upper Chamber.
The Tories' counterblast is to produce an equally major figure from retailing, Sir Ian Maclaurin, the guiding light behind Tesco's storming of the high street these past few years. Just as Sir Richard is credited with transforming many of the world's city centres, Sir Ian has spearheaded Tesco's introduction of glitzier, upmarket lines and new products.
The contrast between Labour's choice of women peers and that of the Tories could not be greater. While the two dames, Anelay and Byford, have remained close to the grass roots, the two new Labour baronesses, Meta Ramsay and Elizabeth Symons, have carved out high-profile careers in areas still dominated by men. Ms Ramsay rose to the top of the Foreign Office before resigning to advise John Smith, the late Labour leader; Ms Symons was the first woman to be appointed general secretary of the union for top civil servants - the First Division Association.
A redoubtable performer before Commons select committees and in negotiations with permanent secretaries, Ms Symons has established the FDA as a major influence on Whitehall policy and reforms.
In what could be seen as a sop to old Labour, one of its stalwarts, Larry Whitty, is ennobled by Tony Blair. The former general secretary of the party under Neil Kinnock and John Smith, he was responsible for guiding through many of their reforms before being effectively frozen out two years ago.
John Taylor, the black Tory candidate vilified by racists in the general election campaign at Cheltenham in 1992 gets his reward of a peerage from John Major. Since being defeated in Cheltenham, Mr Taylor, a barrister, has built a new career as a radio and television presenter.
He will face in the Lords the impressive figure of Swraj Paul, a multi- millionaire Indian businessman. Mr Paul, the founder of Caparo, the steel group, has spent much of his life trying to come to terms with the death from leukaemia of his daughter Ambika, aged five. He gave pounds 1m to London Zoo to rebuild the children's zoo in her honour.
A close friend of Gordon Brown, Mr Paul will be a considerable economic influence, as will his fellow new Labour peer, David Currie, of the London Business School. Professor Currie's recent specialisation of competition regulation will be a major plank in any new Labour administration's economic mandate.
Perhaps the most influential voice from any side, however, will be that of John Alderdice, head of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. Denied a seat at Westminster by traditional sectarian voting loyalties, his neutral Alliance Party will at last be heard centre-stage. Dr Alderdice will take the Liberal Democrat whip on issues other than Ulster.
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