Carmen Smith: who is 27-year-old Plaid Cymru nominee to House of Lords? Salary and controversy explained

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Carmen Smith, 27, becomes the youngest member of the House of Lords, replacing 30-year-old Charlotte Owen, a political advisor nominated by Boris Johnson.

Carmen Smith, a former chief of staff to the Welsh Parliament, will become the youngest current member of the House of Lords aged just 27.

Smith, who currently works as a public affairs officer for Bute Energy, has been nominated by Welsh independence party Plaid Cymru. She will replace their only current peer Lord Dafydd Wigley, 80.

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At 27, she will become the youngest member of the UK Parliament’s upper house, replacing Baroness Charlotte Owen - the 30-year-old political advisor nominated by Boris Johnson. She told the Times: “I don’t see age as a thing. I just see personality.”

Smith is one of 13 new life peers nominated to the Lords, including Stuart Marks, who has donated almost £120,000 to the Conservatives and Paul Goodman, editor of Tory news site Conservative Home.

Carmen Smith. Credit: LinkedInCarmen Smith. Credit: LinkedIn
Carmen Smith. Credit: LinkedIn | LinkedIn

Who is Carmen Smith?

According to her LinkedIn, Carmen Smith is an “experienced strategist, campaigner, and advisor”. She grew up on the island of Anglesey, north Wales, as the youngest of seven siblings. Her father reportedly worked at the Port Talbot steelworks, which recently announced almost 3,000 job losses.

She studied a BTec at the Coleg Menai further education college in Bangor, just the other side of the water from Anglesey, and was student union president. Smith later studied law at Bangor University, her LinkedIn says. She then became NUS Wales’ deputy president.

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Smith then worked as a political adviser to Jill Evans, a Plaid Cymru MEP in Brussels. In 2020, Smith started working at the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, eventually becoming chief of staff for Plaid Cymru. She said: “I managed someone in their seventies and there’s always a bit of tension. But we got on very well — it’s all about adapting how you are.”

More recently she became a public affairs officer for Bute Energy, a Welsh renewable energy and infrastructure company. It wants to build wind turbines and pylons across Mid Wales, which has been opposed by certain campaign groups. 

Smith is a keen weightlifter and also enjoys watching Wales at rugby.

Charlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: ParliamentCharlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: Parliament
Charlotte Owen becomes a Baroness. Credit: Parliament | Parliament

What has Carmen Smith said about becoming the youngest peer in the House of Lords?

Smith told the Times: “I’m definitely not the typical candidate for the Lords but that’s always why I wanted to go for it.” Currently 70% of peers are men and the average age is 71. While she doesn’t believe in an unelected second chamber, she says it’s important to have a Welsh voice in there (only 4% of Lords are from Wales).

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“While laws are made in Westminster that cover Wales, we should have a voice there,” she said. She also said she would only serve for five years: “I fundamentally disagree with doing the job for the rest of your life so I will want to hand over the baton to someone else within my party.”

How much do Lords get paid?

The vast majority of peers do not receive a salary for their work. They can instead claim an attendance allowance of £171 or £342, as well as travel expenses when fulfilling their Parliamentary duties. 

Some peers choose not to claim their attendance allowance. Lords, such as David Cameron and Tariq Ahmad, who are ministers are not entitled to claim allowances based on attendance.

Controversy around selection

As well as general comments about Smith’s age, Nation.Cymru reported that she was beaten in a members vote by former MP Elfyn Llwyd but still chosen to become Plaid’s peer. It stated that Llwyd got more members’ votes, but Smith was elevated by a temporary National Executive Committee order “to promote the representation of women”.

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One member told the Welsh news website: “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.”

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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