There are multiple polls predicting bad outcomes for the Tories in the coming UK general election. The worst of these, Savanta/Telegraph predicts them ending up as the 2nd largest party with 53 seats, with no high profile candidate safe.

It is plausible, though unlikely, that they will be left with no high profile MPs on whichever wing of the party establishes power in the aftermath of such a defeat. However they have quite a "strong bench" in the House of Lords. We have found out it is possible in the current era to have a lord as the foreign secretary, and in the past it was normal for lords to serve as Prime Minister (perhaps Lord Salisbury was the last?)

How plausible would it be for the official opposition to be led by a Conservative member of the House of Lords in the next parliament? I could mention that at time of writing you can get 30/1 on David Cameron being the next Conservative Leader, but this could happen without him being the leader of the opposition.

1 Answer 1


The question of who leads a party in the Commons is far less important for opposition parties than for the governing party, as opposition party leaders have very few rights (the main one being - for the larger opposition parties - a guarantee to be called on to ask questions), and no real powers.

We already have an example of an opposition party leader not being an MP, in the form of the SNP, whose leader is nowadays a member of the Scottish Parliament. Instead, they elect one of their MPs to be their leader in Westminster, subordinate to the leader in Edinburgh.

For the Official Opposition, we can imagine that if the party leader was a peer, then an MP would be appointed or elected to be the party leader in the Commons. (For comparison, this is the reverse of the normal situation where the party leader is an MP; Labour elect their leader in the Lords, while the Conservatives appoint theirs.)

Where things differ compared to, say, the SNP is that the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Commons has official status: the LotO is determined by the Speaker, and is paid a salary in addition to their existing MP income.

So is this plausible? I don't see why not. It would shift the power dynamic, as the LotO in the Common is a very high-profile role, so the idea of that person being subordinate to a party leader in the Lords might take some adjustment. But I imagine that a party could make it work.

(Note: this answer comes with one significant caveat: the rules of both the Conservatives and Labour require their leaders to be MPs. So for this scenario to happen, there would have to be a change in the rules.)

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