Seven candidates and an electorate of three – the strangest by-election ever?

By next Tuesday, we’ll have a new parliamentarian, a new hereditary member of the House of Lords. A House of Lords by-election is being held following the death last month of Eric Avebury, who is already very much missed.

I’m not going to lie, that doesn’t sit terribly comfortably with me. The idea that you could get a place determining the laws we all have to live by just because you were lucky enough to be your parents’ firstborn son is the first big problem. The second logically follows on – it’s an all male electorate deciding from an all male field.  Half of me wonders if we couldn’t have just said “No, this is archaic, we aren’t going to do it.” However, is it really that much worse than a parliamentary chamber that’s appointed? We don’t like it, but there’s a lot of good work it can do. We’re saddled with a majority Conservative Government stitching up the political system in its favour despite having been elected by just over a third of the electorate. The Lords have frustrated them on several occasions over really important issues like housing, immigration and tax credits.  Another Liberal Democrat on the benches has to be a good thing.

There are seven candidates for the place and an electorate of just three, the remaining Liberal Democrat hereditary peers, Dominic Addington, Patrick Glasgow and Raymond Asquith.

Ballot papers are available from today and the result will be announced on Tuesday 19th. Electoral Reform Services have been engaged for the not very onerous task of counting the ballot papers and determining the result.

There are some famous Lib Dem names among the seven candidates, who are:

Lord Calverley.
The Earl of Carlisle
Lord Kennet
Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor
Earl Russell
Lord Somerleyton
Viscount Thurso.

Earl Lloyd George is the great grandson of the last Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. He is also called David.

Earl Russell is the son of Conrad Russell. He inherited the title from his brother who died of a Thrombosis in 2014 at the age of just 45. Unless he has a son, the title will die with him as his two daughters are prevented from inheriting it. Injustice is piled on injustice.

And, of course, there’s Viscount Thurso who became the first hereditary peer to be elected to the Commons in 2001. He lost his Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross seat last May and became Chair of VisitScotland last month.

Thurso is the only one of the seven not to have submitted a 75 word statement in support of his candidacy. Here are the others, which you can also see here.

Calverley, L.

Since being prevented from sitting on the Lib-Dem benches, I have noticed a minority of individuals have usurped their new-found status for their own cupidity, rather than upholding the values of our honourable institution. Their actions have brought “the House” into disrepute in the eyes of the British public. If successful in this ballot, I would endeavour to comply with the demands contained in my writ of summons.

Carlisle, E.

I served as an officer in the armed forces for 20 years, experiencing conflict in Northern Ireland, Oman, Cyprus and the refugee problem in Hong Kong.

I have been a parliamentary and European parliamentary candidate in the north of England. During my five years in the House of Lords I championed the cause of widening the European Union eastwards and increasing the membership of NATO.

Until retirement I worked at Tartu University, Estonia.

Kennet, L.

I devised, commissioned and implemented the world’s first nationwide home-delivery service of fresh and chilled food, bringing zero carbon emission organic food to consumers nationwide in the UK (Cornwall to the Highlands & Islands), paving the way for Ocado et al, who are still not nationwide.

Through Aldus Initiatives, I am leading an innovative project to drastically reduce carbon emissions from the building sector through the adoption of zero carbon sustainable bio- aggregates alternative construction materials.

Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.

Since my early years I have had a keen and personal interest in politics, espoused with the traditions and beliefs of a liberal.

My working life started aged 19 in shipping, finishing in political risk insurance.

If elected, I would undertake to be a regular attender and to devote my maximum time and efforts to the Liberal Democrats and to the business of the House.

Russell, E.

I am a long-standing party member, activist and approved parliamentary candidate. I was a Councillor in Lewisham 2006–2010 and chaired Overview and Scrutiny. I was a London Assembly candidate 2012.

I have been chair of Wide Horizons Outdoor Education Trust (1105847) since 2012. Wide Horizons provides outdoor education to 45,000 children each year.

If elected, I will be a full-time working peer and will make the best contribution I can to the workings of the House.

Somerleyton, L.

Employer of >100pax in deprived area near Great Yarmouth tourism & agriculture; two food businesses, one Middle Eastern, currently Hot Chip, gourmet chip shop, Brixton. Travelled to occupied territories, support the Hoping Foundation, Palestinian Circus, the Palestinian marathon and deeply committed to Palestinian Statehood; concerned the government is not.

Visited re-wilding projects; committed to this marriage between enriched native wildlife diversity and enriched human diet; concerned government has no green philosophy.


We shall bring you the result when we know it next week.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 12th Apr '16 - 8:04pm

    Lords Hansard will show that David Steel’s attempts at reform included the abolition of these elections, not least because of the effects “on our side of the House”.
    Although he has achieved an Act of Parliament, including the useful reform of voluntary retirement of peers, there is scope and need for more progress.
    Candidates should be asked questions.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Apr '16 - 8:06pm

    Not the strangest election ever. Imagine a court of law in the UK making a decision on heredity before DNA testing was scientifically available.

  • Neil Bradbury 12th Apr '16 - 8:38pm

    out of interest, why is the hereditary Baron Redesdale, Lib Dem and in the Lords, not voting?

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '16 - 8:50pm

    The last hered election for a Liberal Democrat was an election by the whole House when Lord Methuen died. Every member of the House could vote and any eligible peer could stand but by the Carter Convention a LD had to be elected (and several Tories and Independents did). The winner was Raymond Asquith (the Earl of Oxford and Asquith), who is now one of the three voters.

    The previous hered by-election for a LD place followed the death of the very great Conrad Russell (Earl Russell) and was restricted to the LD group but there were then four voters (see below!) Patrick Glasgow – the Earl of Glasgow – won with four votes and all the other candidates got none.

    This time there are only three voters because one of the four (Lucius Falkland – Viscount Falkland) took himself off to the Crossbenches a few years ago.

    If you think this is all another reason for serious reform of the Upper House, I would not disagree.

    I don’t think anyone will be opening a book on the present contest.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '16 - 8:53pm

    Rupert Redesdale left the House in 1999 in the cull of all but 92 hereditaries. He returned to the Lords as a Life Peer in 2000 and sits by virtue of that title (Lord Mitford). But the hereditary title is the senior one so he is known by that title in the House. (Don’t ask…)

  • Mick Taylor 12th Apr '16 - 9:01pm

    I never knew Lord Summerleyton was a Liberal! He has rights over the decisions taken in respect of People’s Park, Halifax. You live and learn.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '16 - 9:06pm

    By the way (sorry, must go do something useful…)

    The last by-election with just three electors was for a Labour place and was won by Lord Grantchester by 2 votes to 1.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '16 - 9:08pm

    Lord Summerleyton may or may not be a Liberal. Any peer eligible to sit in the House can stand (though I think they have to agree to sit on the LD benches when they arrive). I would not put any money on this man though.

  • Ir is interesting to learn that Lord Somerleyton (spelled thus) is a Liberal Democrat, or, at least, is prepared to take the Lib Dem whip in the House of Lords if elected. If so, although the prospects of his being elected seem small, he will be the first head of his family – the Crossley carpet family to sit in Parliament as a Liberal or Liberal Democrat since his ancestor, Sir Savile Crossley, Bart. (afterwards 1st Baron Somerleyton) left the Liberals to become a Liberal Unionist in 1886.
    What is also a surprise is that the field of potential candidates includes Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, again not previously associated with our party. If he should be elected, although the prospects of his achieving this seem similarly small, he might well be the very first holder of his title to take the Liberal or Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lotds, since David Lloyd George was not well enough to take his seat in the Lords between his creation as Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor and his death ; his son, the 2nd Earl, although possibly a Liberal, took no part in public life ; and the present Earl’s father was, I think, a cross-bencher.

  • Just how does this election work? It can’t be FPTP as all three electors could chose a different candidate, so presumably by STV. But I’m still puzzled about how the arithmetic works. Can anyone enlighten?

  • You have to elect the guy who uses the word “cupidity” in his manifesto 🙂 You just have to!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 12th Apr '16 - 11:00pm

    Mary, I think it’s a normal AV election.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Apr '16 - 11:08pm

    We should be able to remove any politician via a ballot box. It’s pragmatic as well as fair. I am fine with abolition or reform of the House of Lords. If we only had one chamber then maybe people would take elections more seriously.

    When we are fighting Islamists or defending the Falkland Islands the main reason we are doing so is for human rights and democracy. Democracy is not just a nice idea, it’s a fundamental part of an effective government. The US defeated the Soviet Union partly due to democratic ideals and we got rid of the Empire to stand up for democracy and the free world. We need to be doing this around the world more often with China and Russia threatening democracies.

    Best regards

  • Be interesting to see if Raymond Asquith, as an elector, is prepared to “forgive and forget” with David Lloyd George.

    @ Caron It’s stretching the elastic a bit to say D. LLG was “the last Liberal Prime Minister”. He was the head of a Coalition Government which was far from liberal in its behaviour and IMHO he is the individual most responsible for the collapse of the old Liberal Party.

    @ Hugh p Note the West Yorks connection with Crossley and Muff. Actually Jonathan Crossley (a barrister) was for a time the PPC for Sowerby. Calverley (surname Muff) was a policeman in Bradford – I don’t know if he’s connected to the old department store of Brown Muff in Bradford. He’s certainly got a point on the cupidity issue last summer.

    Frankly, on the issue of heredity, one is tempted to quote LLG in his more radical days that the House of Lords is “…a body of five hundred men chosen at random from amongst the unemplo

  • Tony Greaves 13th Apr '16 - 1:12pm

    Longstanding Yorkshire Liberal activist Jim Crossley was connected with the carpet firm. The electoral system is AV. I don’t know what they would do if there were three first prefs (draw lots perhaps). Counting second prefs would offend the principle that “expressing a further preferences cannot harm the chances of your higher choice”.

    I expect the result may be similar to the previous contest.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 13th Apr '16 - 9:48pm

    Someone should have a word with Waveney Liberal Democrats to offer Lord Somerleyton a membership application form… 🙂

  • This reminds me of that election in Blackadder 3 when Baldrick gets elected over William Pitt the even younger by 33,000 votes in a rotten constituency with an electorate of one.

  • I wonder what happens if three candidates get one vote each.

  • John Barrett 15th Apr '16 - 8:39am

    If John Thurso does not win this, I will eat my hat.

    Let me be the first to congratulate him in advance.

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