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‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian
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Monday, 14 January 2013

By-election with 27 Conservative candidates and 48 voters


The British political system changes only slowly and sometimes it gets stuck for decades part-way through a modernisation. This is the case with the House of Lords and it has given rise to a peculiar by-election.

In 1911 the Parliament Act reduced the power of the House of Lords, so that it could, at most, delay legislation for up to two years. In 1949 this delaying power was reduced to one year. Then, in 1999, all but 92 of the hereditary peers were removed from the House of Lords, leaving appointed life peers in the majority.

The 92 hereditary peers remaining in the Lords comprise 17 office holders and 28 other Crossbenchers,  3 liberal democrats, 2 Labour and 42 Conservatives.

One of the 42 Conservative hereditary peers, Earl Ferrers, recently died. Under the current rules, his replacement is to be chosen in a by-election among the surviving Conservative hereditary peers sitting in the House of Lords. There will be 48 voters (Conservative office holders and elected hereditary peers). 27 candidates have come forward (all Conservative hereditary peers not currently sitting in the Lords). The vote will take place using the Alternative Vote system.

So, effectively we have a by-election with 27 Conservative candidates and just 48 voters (all Conservative lords), to elect a new member of an ‘unelected’ chamber, by the Alternative Vote system (which the Conservative Party rejected for the House of Commons). 

With a system as simple and transparent as this, it is amazing that anyone would suggest any further reforms at all!

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