And the new Lib Dem peer is…

John Thurso…Despite failing to submit a manifesto
…Despite one of his opponents submitting a manifesto with the word “cupidity” in it
…the new Lib Dem peer is the old Lib Dem Peer and former MP John Thurso.

He won the strangest by-election ever, the election of another Liberal Democrat hereditary peer to replace Eric Avebury who sadly died in February.

There was an electorate of 3 to choose between a field of 7.

We don’t need the full STV rundown because all 3 of the electors voted for Lord Thurso.

The BBC has more information:

Only the three current Lib Dem hereditary peers in the Lords were entitled to vote in the contest.

All of them – the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, the Earl of Glasgow and Lord Addington – voted for Viscount Thurso.

The other candidates were Earl Lloyd-George of Dwfor, the great grandson of the former Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George, Lord Calverley, the Earl of Carlisle, Lord Kennett, Earl Russell and Lord Somerleyton.

John Thurso is the grandson of Archibald Sinclair, the former Liberal Party leader who was a member of Winston Churchill’s coalition government during World War Two.

He lost his parliamentary seat in last year’s election and has since been appointed chair of VisitScotland.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 19th Apr '16 - 5:41pm

    It’s just legalism to accept that because this is legal it is legitimate. The same kind of thinking leads to people supporting absolute monarchs on the grounds it is “constitutional”.

    In fact you have the impeachment in Brazil at the moment, where people who defended the House of Lords blocking the Commons, on the grounds of constitutionalism, such as the Guardian, are now saying what looks like a constitutional impeachment is now anti-democratic.

    So the overall thinking seems to be “my ally right or wrong” and people pick up arguments for democracy one minute and constitutionalism the next depending on what suits them best.

    Of course I believe the Lib Dems want an elected House of Lords, but how much does the party actually want it?

  • Leekliberal 19th Apr '16 - 5:56pm

    It is wacky but true that the Lords is more representative of the UK electorate
    than the Commons elected under First Past The Post. In this elective dictatorship I am pleased that we have another Lib Dem Peer to vote to force the Government to think again.

  • @ Eddie Sammon Turkeys – Christmas.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Apr '16 - 6:16pm

    Thanks David Raw, I agree that is the problem. I just thought: does anyone have figures on public opinion on the House of Lords? So the Queen, for instance, or the British Monarchy as a whole, is not something I support, but I grit my teeth and accept its legitimacy through the public support that it has.

    But something being written down in a document, blessed by priests or otherwise, doesn’t alone make something legitimate (I’m an atheist anyway).

  • paul barker 19th Apr '16 - 6:44pm

    During The Coalition, we offered The HoC several possible options for a Democratic Upper House, all were rejected & The “Elected” chamber voted to continue with the present arrangements. One could therefore argue that the whole set-up is illegitimate but not that only part of it is. Either the vote of The Commons serves to Legitimate The Lords or the illegitimacy of The Lords drags The Commons down with it. Its all one pile of crap & we have to either work with it or reject the lot & go for civil disobedience.

  • Matt (Bristol) 19th Apr '16 - 7:52pm

    I am beginning to wonder (not entirely comfortably) if slightly more democratic progress may have been made if we had insisted on having a referendum on an elected HoL in the last parliament (for which I believe – but I would like to see evidence – there is a large feeling of popular support) and allowed the Tories and Labour to kick AV for the commons into the long grass, rather than the other way round – but, of course, at the early, honeymoon stage of the Coalition, we wanted to believe what we were being told, that our party had influence, and that it could be long-lasting…

  • Whatever the view about H0L, we have what we have. Eric Avebury lit the flame of Liberalism again at Orpington all those years ago. Last year and despite increasing his vote John, who put himself forward for democratic election, spoke of the flickering flame of Liberalism following the loss of his seat in HoC. I’m just so pleased to see a good Parliamentarian back in a position of influence and someone who will speak up for the people of the Highlands. He didn’t choose to be a Viscount, but he is and he can use that advantage for others with less advantage for the future. I look forward to Lords reform but meanwhile I rejoice at a good Liberal, and a friend, being there and fighting my corner and the corner of those less able to speak up for themselves. For the avoidance of doubt, I have no claim to aristocracy. I just value people who whatever their background fight for equality of opportunity for all.

  • David wilkinson 20th Apr '16 - 7:40am

    Another by election, the last time I met John Thurso was at the Cheadle by election. We were on a table filling envelopes with target letters.
    I think he will a great asset in the House of Lords

  • Tony Greaves 20th Apr '16 - 10:02am

    Not the strangest ever. It’s now the third by-election with only three or four voters and the previous LD by-election had the same unanimous result. Labour’s was won by Lord Grantchester by 2 to 1.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Apr '16 - 10:03am

    David Steel tried to abolish hereditary by-elections. The House would not have it. On the other hand, it’s no more ridiculous than appointment by party leaders.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Apr '16 - 10:15am

    Tony Greaves is right, “not the strangest by-election ever”.
    Remember a case where a court had determined against heredity years ago (money in it?) and yet at the time of the Lords’ bye-election heredity was accepted.

  • I have taken a close interest in these by-elections since they began. I wish people would move the focus on from the titles, family histories etc. They are, after all, elections for public and political office. Taking the time to read the statements submitted for this one shows that there were several candidates whose background and experience are very relevant to some of the issues debated on this site and within the wider liberal movement. For instance, EU/NATO eastward relations (Carlisle), Palestinian statehood (Somerleyton), zero-carbon businesses (Kennet), agriculture and employment (Somerleyton again), opportunities for young people (Russell). Moving beyond the statements, in addition to John Thurso there was a former councillor and London Assembly candidate (Russell) and a two-time general election candidate who also stood for the European Parliament (Carlisle). One of the stronger, and broader, fields I have seen (barristers and fund managers have tended to predominate in previous conests).

    These are the only elections that we have for the second chamber, and their continuance acts as a reminder that the process of reform is unfinished. If they were done away with, the chance of change would fall away to almost zero. In any case, to boycott them, as advocated by some, would in this case merely have denied the LibDems another voice in Westminster. As it is, they have a representative with a proven record of service to and advocacy for his region and liberalism.

  • At least somebody voted for Lord Thurso. . Who chooses candidates for the House of Commons and the other national Assemblies or the Scottish parliament, especially those on the regional lists, or for that matter local council candidates ?

    Personally I would like the House of Lords to be replaced by a Senate of about 150 – 200 people elected by pure proportional representation, without any thresholds to exclude unpopular parties, with the power to veto bills passed by the House of Commons as long as that body is elected by First Past the Post. That is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future so we must make the best of what we have.
    I do not expect that the Labour or Conservative parties will ever voluntarily agree to proportional representation for either House of Parliament or for the reform of the House of Lords because they like what is there now, so there is little point in making a big issue of it.

  • I don’t understand the premise of the last question which seems to imply candidates are selected in some mysterious unaccountable way?

    In the Liberal Democrats candidates are selected by One Member One Vote by every Member in whatever the relevant Party area is -Council Ward, Parliamentary Constituency, Regional Area etc. Then of course the electorate decide between candidates of different Parties. Simples.

  • Do the other parties choose their election candidates in the same democratic manner as the Liberal Democrats ? I do not think that is always the case. In any case membership of political parties is a very small portion of the electorate and not necessarily representative of the voters, although it is hard to think of any other suitable way to organise these things.

  • The point I was making is that before criticising elections to the House of Lords we should perhaps reflect on how more important elections are conducted.

  • I wondered slightly, when it was announced that John Thurso had received all three votes (and that without issuing an election address), whether the other candidates, who did put out addresses, knew in advance that their candidacies would come to nothing, and, if they did not know this in advance, whether the election process as far as they were concerned was something of a delusion.
    But, to answer my own query, I guess that the unsuccessful candidates this time around are putting down a marker that they would be interested whenever the next vacancy for a Liberal Democrat hereditary peer occurs – and, in the meantime, I do very much hope that our Waveney constituency party has followed Mark Valladares’s excellent suggestion and has sent Lord Somerleyton a membership form !

  • Isn’t it somewhat eccentric to produce a manifesto for an election with 3 voters?

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Apr '16 - 9:02am

    A good idea from envelop2003 on how to reform the HoL, to which I would lke to add that there should be no official government or opposition spokespeople in the reformed Senate. Having a payroll vote is troubling enough as it compromises the independence of Parliament, and we certainly should not have one in the revising chamber.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Apr '16 - 1:32pm

    Alex McFie. Why don’t we just pretend that politics doesn’t exist? Why don’t we foster the illusion that people don’t have political opinions and that there really are so called ‘independents’?

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