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Youngest ever life peer introduced to the House of Lords

21 Mar 2024 7 minute read
Carmen Smith – Baroness Smith of Llanfaes

Plaid Cymru’s Carmen Smith will today (Thursday 21 March) be introduced to the House of Lords as Baroness Smith of Llanfaes. At 28-years-old, she will be the youngest ever life peer.

Llanfaes is a small village in Ynys Môn (Anglesey) where Carmen Smith grew up. She said that she chose her title in order to “shine a light on the experiences of people in areas like mine”.

As a young carer for her late father, who suffered with dementia, and growing up in an underprivileged area, she said that her experience were “far from unique, but are a world away from the reality lives by most in Westminster”.

“A voice for my generation”

Ms Smith will be introduced to the Lords by former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley and former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. She will take the oath in Welsh.

She said that her generation faced “stark wealth disparities, soaring debts, unaffordable housing, and precarious employment” and are “incensed by the injustices suffered by so many in our society”.

She said that her generation’s voice is “drowned out by the failures of the UK’s political and economic structures” and hoped to give a voice to her generation.

Plaid Cymru former party leader Dafydd Wigley, who has sat in the Lords since 2011, warmly congratulated Carmen Smith and confirmed he will retire from the Lords after the next General Election.

Lord Dafydd Wigley in Llanberis

He reiterated Plaid Cymru’s request for three members in Westminster’s second chamber to reflect the party’s representation in the Commons.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, welcomed Carmen Smith to the Plaid Cymru Westminster team, saying that she would be “tenacious in standing up for Wales, for young people, and for women.”

“Unique responsibility”

Ahead of her introduction to the House of Lords, Carmen Smith said: “As I am introduced to the House of Lords as its youngest member today, I will be acutely aware of the unique responsibility I hold to be a voice for my generation.

“We came of age amidst the global recession and austerity, seeing the decimation of youth services and the growing mental health crisis. Against the backdrop of looming climate catastrophe, we face stark wealth disparities, soaring debts, unaffordable housing, and precarious employment. We are incensed by the injustices suffered by so many in our society.

“As a young carer to my late father, I experienced the kind of struggles that so many people face every day – the same barriers, the same prejudices. As someone who grew up in a rural, underprivileged area, I experienced the lack of connectedness, lack of infrastructure, that so many of our communities still face.

“I chose ‘Llanfaes’ as my title as I wanted to send a message. I wanted to shine a light on the experiences of people in areas like mine. My experiences are far from unique, but are a world away from the reality lived by most in Westminster.

“Across Wales, young voices are drowned out by the failures of the UK’s political and economic structures. They deserve to be heard.

“In a House of Lords where not many members will look like me, I know that I will have to shout loudly. I’m ready for that.”

Labour U-turn

Plaid Cymru’s honorary President and former leader Dafydd Wigley added: “I warmly welcome Carmen’s appointment to the Lords; look forward to introducing her on Thursday and to working with her in the second chamber.

“Plaid Cymru was, in 2006,  promised three seats in the Lords by the then Labour government during Tony Blair’s premiership. The party, in 2007, elected three members to fill these seats; but when Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister, Labour went back on their commitment.

“It was only when David Cameron became Prime Minister that Plaid Cymru was allowed one seat in the Lords, which I took up in 2011. At that time, I was assured that further appointments would follow in due course; but it has taken until now for that to happen.

“It is true that I have indicated in the past that I did not foresee myself continuing in the Lords beyond the age of 80 (I shall be 81 next month). However, with Carmen’s very welcome appointment, I resolved to stay a little longer to help her settle into the work.”

Liz Saville Roberts MP (CC BY 3.0)

He continued: “I have also been asked by Plaid’s Parliamentary leader, Rt Hon Liz Saville Roberts MP, whether I would stay on until after the forthcoming general election in order to help bridge the political changes which will impact on Wales with boundary changes; and the advent of a new government.

“I have considered this and can now state that it is my intention to continue working in the House of Lords until after the next election, if my health and that of my family, so allow.

“I very much hope that during this period, Plaid Cymru’s other nominee, Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd, former parliamentary leader,  will be appointed to the Lords – and that this will deliver on the earlier commitment that Plaid Cymru will have three seats in the second chamber, to work for Wales to the best of our endeavours.

“In the meantime, I look forward to working alongside Carmen Smith and wish her every success.”

“Tenacious”

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP added: “I am excited for Carmen Smith to join Plaid Cymru’s small but hard-working team in Westminster. I know she will be tenacious in standing up for Wales, for young people, and for women.

“We need people with a whole range of experiences to make our politics more representative of society. I can’t wait to see Carmen shake things up and bring a breath of fresh air into Westminster’s second chamber.”

Controversy

Carmen Smith’s introduction into the House of Lords has not been without its controversies.

After an internal election for nominees to the House of Lords, Carmen Smith was elevated to first place on the list even though she was decisively beaten in a members’ vote by former MP Elfyn Llwyd.

In December 2023, a longstanding Plaid Cymru member contacted Nation.Cymru and said: “This is disgraceful. I don’t know the actual result of the vote but I would have thought that Elfyn was way out in front. The fact that the National Exec has imposed a woman on top of the list was not explained at any time in the introduction to the virtual hustings that I attended last week.”

A senior party source told us: “This all stems from a decision by the NEC to make sure that a woman was given top position, regardless of how many votes were cast. It’s quite farcical that Elfyn Llwyd was way in the lead, yet came second. It’s surely a travesty of democracy. He has a wealth of Parliamentary experience, while Carmen hasn’t even been elected as a councillor.

Plaid Cymru’s approach towards membership of the House of Lords has wide drawn wide criticism. Many party activists oppose it on the grounds that it is undemocratic, but the party’s official line now is to engage with it on the grounds that the legislation it passes has an impact on Wales.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
20 days ago

 “……..the party’s official line now is to engage with it on the grounds that the legislation it passes has an impact on Wales.” More like it’s a nice little earner for someone whose face fits. Particularly bad form as she continues to work with one of the major carpetbagger firms exploiting our rural landscape. Had she worked for a community based initiative aimed at channeling the revenues and benefits from green energy there would have been real merit in promoting her as an agent of change.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 days ago

Llanfaes…underprivileged !

What nonsense, someone should apologise to Mr Llwyd and Cymru in general…

Why vote
Why vote
20 days ago

Hope she will now lobby for welsh independence, it could be mentioned on her first day.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
20 days ago

Plaid shouldn’t send anyone to the House of Lords – by definition it is everything Plaid Cymru is supposed to oppose. Plaid are so meek and ineffectual – it is high time they became more radical, they are nothing but a load of sheep!

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