Lords double for academics

June 26, 1998

Two working academics are included in the list of new peers announced this month.

The Lords' gain is Sussex University's loss. Margaret Sharp, who has worked at the university's Science Policy Research Unit for 17 years, will now work part-time.

Baroness Sharp, 59, expects to join the Liberal Democrat economics team, which covers the Treasury and the Department for Trade and Industry. This will build logically on her role as chair of the party policy group on science, technology and innovation and of the working group on economic policy in the run-up to the last election. "I'm proud of that work - we put a damn good policy together, most of which has since been taken over by the Labour Party," she said.

She joins the Lords after four bids to enter the Commons as a candidate for Guildford. "I had already decided not to stand again," she said. "I think it would be very difficult to start a new career at 63 or 64, which is how old I will be by the time of the next election."

Joining the Lords will make much less difference to Philip Norton's life than it does to most working peers. "I already spend a lot of my time at Westminster," said Lord Norton, 47, professor of politics at Hull University.

This has been even more the case since he started work on a study of cabinet ministers as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Whitehall programme. "I have interviewed quite a number of peers who are ex-ministers. Perhaps this will facilitate getting a few more interviews," he said.

One of four new Conservative peers, he expects his work in the Lords to reflect his expertise on constitutional issues, which will loom large in the immediate future, not least in terms of Lords reform. In spite of that, he said: "It would be the worst possible mistake to go in there thinking I know everything about the place."

When appointed a professor at Hull in 1986, he was the youngest professor of politics in the United Kingdom. There is a Hull tradition among political scientists in the Lords. Labour's Lord Plant was a student there, and Liberal Democrat Lord Smith taught in the politics department.

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