Richard was interested in politics but sceptical of political parties when at school and university. He was brought up in a strongly Conservative constituency, Sheffield Hallam, in a strongly Labour city, Sheffield.

He joined the Liberal Democrats in 1990 when he was living in the city of Bath. He felt (and continues to feel) that parties are a necessary part of the system if you want to move from complaining to effecting actual political change.

His first active involvement as a Liberal Democrat was in the 1992 General Election when Don Foster beat the Conservative Party Chairman Chris Patten in the Bath constituency.

Richard then stood as a candidate for the Bath North West ward of Avon County Council in 1993 and won the seat from the Conservatives.

He became Deputy Leader of the Avon County Council Liberal Democrat group in what was a balanced council - no single party had overall control and there was no formal party coalition.

Richard stood for election to Bath City Council in the Lansdown ward in 1994 and beat the sitting Conservative by a very small margin (16 votes!).

These were the last elections to Avon County and Bath City Councils as they were abolished in a reorganisation and replaced by Bath and North East Somerset Council in 1996.

Richard applied to be Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate in his home constituency of Sheffield Hallam and was selected by the local party in 1995. He won his seat in the General Election in 1997 defeating the Conservative candidate on a swing of over 15%.

Richard defended the seat comfortably in the 2001 General Election. He announced in 2003 that he would not contest the seat again.

During his time in the House of Commons, Richard was very active in a number of Select Committees and on bill committees. He also chaired the Information Select Committee which had oversight of the Library and information technology services. He was a supporter of civic tech initiatives that produced groundbreaking services like TheyWorkForYou.

Sheffield Hallam Liberal Democrats selected Nick Clegg as their candidate for the 2005 election. Richard played a lead role in Nick Clegg's General Election campaign and Nick won with over 50% of the vote.

Richard held no political office between 2005 and 2010 but was active in Nick Clegg's campaign to lead the Liberal Democrat party in 2007.

Richard was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010 as Baron Allan of Hallam (of Ecclesall in the County of South Yorkshire) where he remains a member.