Today’s by-election: Excepted hereditary peers

A by-election took place today in the House of Lords, to fill the vacancy among the excepted hereditary peers, created by the death of Lord Ampthill on 23 April. The ballot (under AV) was held between 10am and 8pm today in the Queen’s Robing Room, and the count will be conducted tomorrow by Electoral Reform Services.

Lord Ampthill was one of the 15 hereditary peers elected by the whole House, as part of a compromise in the House of Lords Act 1999, which retained 92 hereditaries in the House of Lords. His successor is also elected by “all Members of the House who have taken the Oath, and who are not subject to statutory disqualification, suspended from the service of the House, or on Leave of Absence”.

There were two Liberal Democrats among the candidates in this by-election:

George Carlisle
Supporting statement:

Carlisle, E. (Liberal Democrat)
I served in the British Army for 25 years.
Currently I work at Tartu University, Estonia. I lecture on British and European politics and history, both there and throughout the Baltic region.

I have owned a hill farm in Cumbria for 34 years and understand the problems of hill
farming.

If elected I will be an advocate for an influential Europe, a reformed defence strategy and armed forces, sustainable hill farms and flourishing museums.

Thoby Kennet
Supporting statement:

Kennet, L. (Liberal Democrat)
I always shared my father’s visionary political campaigns on the environment, preservation, science, defence, liberty and Europe, preparing myself for your Lordships’ House.

I am a prize-winning journalist, father of three, have been a bus conductor and an organic Internet entrepreneur. At 54 years of age, I think I am a natural candidate able to bridge the gap between the pre- and post- Internet generations, and to contribute to your Lordships’ debate on many issues.

In his hustings speech, George Howard, 13th Earl of Carlisle, paid tribute to Lord Ampthill, before leading neatly into a neat Parliamentary analogy:

I salute the late Lord Ampthill. I recall his helpfulness to new members, always ready with advice, When he was Chairman of Your Lordships’ Catering Committee, there occurred the egg crisis or Salmonella. A number of peers were struck by food poisoning. The finger was pointed at the mayonnaise. Journalists aggressively sought the opinion of Lord Ampthill.
He rose to the occasion. He states:

“The root of the matter lies in this: The House of Lords ran out of eggs – so we borrowed from the House of Commons.”

Not every bill that comes here from the Commons – as with eggs – is good. Bills need revision. Government legislation required scrutiny. Ministers must be questioned or must answer at the dispatch box. I am standing to take part, if elected, in the process.

Thoby Young, the 3rd Baron Kennet writes:

I decided to stand in this election because I have the constitutional right to do so. I believe that a new generation of disinterested hereditary peers are likely to be able to contribute to the work of the House, and to envision with a fresh approach its necessary forthcoming reforms.

Plans are in hand to form a foundation to pursue the passions, interests and policies which were – and are – the political backbone of my family, over five generations. These are very largely Liberal Democrat values. I support the reform package put forward by Nick Clegg. I also intend to concern myself with these issues specifically:

  • the environment – I am campaigning for cleaner air in London
  • preservation – A campaign is being planned to preserve for residents a historic venue in east London
  • science and the arts – the arts and science dialogue will be central to the foundation
  • security – what kind of defence and security can we have in the cyber-age? Weapons systems continue to proliferate. How much more can the earth take? What about China?
  • human rights – this is the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on Refugees. The plight of the homeless and the stateless is not much improved since 1961. What more can we do?
  • Europe – the future of our party at the heart of government in Britain mirrors the future of Britain at the heart of Europe
  • food and farming – I have more than 20 years experience in organic and sustainable food and farming
  • the arts – the foundation will actively seek participation of artists and and involve them in developing original ways of tackling perennial issues.

The House of Lords’ reputation has taken a beating these last few years. It shames me to observe that MPs and peers now form, by % points, the professional grouping most represented in prison in Britain. We can, and will, do much better; but meanwhile it is all hands on deck to explain and to justify the Upper House, and its achievements, to a rightly sceptical public.

The result will be announced tomorrow, 20 July.

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5 Comments

  • Baron Kennet is brave to support his abolition in his hustings. It is unlikely that his noble peers will cherish the example of the Viscount Thurso in voting for him, being flightless birds voting for a religious feast if so. Unfortunately.

  • Chris Stanbra 20th Jul '11 - 7:51am

    “The ballot (under AV)”
    I hope the Peers understood such a complicated and expensive system of voting and won’t be too disappointed when the winner doesn’t win……

  • I pray for and await the day when we have a truly democratic upper house. Elected by universal sufferage. Too many people in Britain over the centuries have strived and died to make this happen. Abolish genetic priveledge now. Titles Of status should be earned, not given and the best judge of that in a democracy is the people!

  • Hee! Well played there Chris.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Jul '11 - 9:58pm

    Lots of them don’t understand AV (let alone PR). Over the years I have had several apparently intelligent peers (and some less apparently so) asking me daft questions.

    eg – a senior Tory about a previous peers by-election – “Tony, you understand these things. I am very keen to see Lord —- back in the House but he tells me that he is worried he will not receive enough second preferences. I was thinking of voting for him as number 1, but would it help him if I put him at number 2 instead?”

    And this one from a Liberal Democrat peer in the recent election for the new Speaker of the House (also by AV – it’s the House of Lords way!) “I would have liked to vote for Angie Harris [Baroness Harris of Richmond, LD] but I don’t think she can win so I voted for Lord Colwyn [a Conservative] instead.” When I shouted at him, he said: “But I voted for Angie as number 2”.

    Tony Greaves

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