The House of Lords is in the midst of yet another hereditary peers’ by-election

Electoral Reform Society
Electoral Reform Society

Posted on the 11th July 2017

By Darren Hughes

In case you’re not aware of this bizarre constitutional anomaly, in 1999, the House of Lords Act kicked out all but 92 hereditary peers.

But instead of reducing that number over time, there was a fudge of a fudge – those on the ‘Register of Hereditary Peers’ would be allowed to stand and fill the place – with an electorate composed entirely of hereditary peers from the deceased member’s political group.

So unless you are one of the 31 lords eligible to cast a ballot in this crossbench hereditary vote, sadly you miss out on this one.

There’s form when it comes to this. At its highest, the electorate for a hereditary by-election electorate has been 803. At its lowest? Three. In fact, four by-elections have had more candidates than electors.

There are 10 candidates in this current Crossbench group by-election (and 31 eligible voters). On the basis of recent turnout, around 25 Peers will decide which aristocrat remains in Parliament to vote on our laws, for the rest of their lives.

And some of the Peers’ statements are worth reading for their poetry alone. They include: “I wish to come and give my support for Brexit. I have been in farming” (that’s the entire application), and “I have years of experience in local businesses as I run an estate that covers much of Wales.” But the real corker is this: “[No statement submitted].” The brass neck.

There’s a serious point here. The successful aristocrat will have a vote on our laws for life. That many of those in the running have barely a tweet’s worth of words in their election statement says a lot about entitlement and the state of British democracy today.

This isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last hereditary by-election. We just hope this farce ends before it stops being darkly comical…


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