Monday, December 10, 2012
Election to the House of Lords
Despite attempts by the Liberal Democrats to reform the upper chamber, 92 hereditary peers remain on the red benches, a compromise deal agreed a decade ago when many earls, marquesses and dukes were booted back to their stately homes and castles. And every time one of the 92 dies, the House operates a "one-out, one-in" process where those hereditaries kicked out in 2000 can apply to get back in.
This week, candidates for the latest hereditary peers' by-election will throw their hats into the ring, following the death last month of Earl Ferrers, the colourful former Tory minister. By-elections in the House of Lords are conducted in secret, with a private hustings held on an undisclosed date. Rather than a polling station, the "voters" – in this case the 47 existing hereditary Tory peers – will cast their ballots in the Lords on 13 February. The contest is fought using the alternative vote system – the reform the Conservative Party rejected in the referendum.
There are currently 183 hereditaries who would be eligible to stand in the election. Yet, given that Lord Ferrers's "seat" was Conservative, only Tory peers are expected to stand.
The peer elected will join the other 89 male hereditary peers. There are only two female hereditary peers. Although the Royal succession is to be changed to allow the first born to succeed, the Peers have no intention of changing primogeniture so succession will be down the male line except in a very few cases.
This is quite disgraceful. What happened to gender equality? With the 26 male bishops we have 116 purely male positions in the House of Lords. This is a distortion of democracy. Time for reform of the House of Lords.