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Hereditary Peers By-election

Volume 818: debated on Wednesday 9 February 2022


The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the by-election to elect a Conservative hereditary Peer, in place of Viscount Ridley. Thirty-six noble Lords submitted valid ballots and a notice detailing the results is in the Printed Paper Office and online. The successful candidate was Lord Strathcarron.

I thank the returning officer for announcing the result of another exciting by-election. It was a minimalist announcement; over the years I have tried to get more detail into the formal announcement. It is available in the Printed Paper Office, but members of the public who may be watching and interested in this subject—I assume there are one or two somewhere—cannot go to the Printed Paper Office.

I note, by the way, that the only reference to this on today’s Order Paper is in the smallest possible type, so that hopefully we will not notice. Well, I did notice. The Clerk, of course, was quite right to say that a Conservative won the election. There may be people watching who take an interest in these things who will be pleased about that, because Governments go through sticky patches and this Government are having one. A Conservative victory is terrific in a by-election.

I have to give the facts. The winning candidate was a Conservative, the second candidate was a Conservative, the third on the list was a Conservative, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th were Conservatives—there were 10 candidates and they were all Conservatives. It was pretty locked down in terms of what might happen. Added to that is the fact that you needed to be a Conservative in order to vote—I know when I am beaten; that is game, set, match and tournament.

On the question of the electorate—again, this perhaps needs explaining to people outside—it consisted of 45 people. I noticed that only 36 voted, so the turnout is slipping. Forty-five people could have voted, and they are a very privileged group. Since these by-elections resumed last June, there have been eight of them—we have by-elections more frequently than they do in the Commons—and these 45 electors have elected three Peers in June last year, and another one now. So 45 people have elected four Members of Parliament. I am fairly confident in saying that, in the history of parliamentary democracy, never have so many been elected by so few.

My final comment is that it is traditional in by-elections in this country—there is one pending in Birmingham Erdington—as has been the case for over 100 years, that women play a full part, both as candidates and as voters. As the House knows, in the case of by-elections for hereditary Peers, we do not operate that system, and all the candidates were men. Indeed, all the candidates in all the by-elections held since last June have been men, and in this case all the electorate are men. Again, it is something of a slam dunk.

I would like to end on a bit of good news for the House: I understand that there is another by-election pending, following the retirement of Lord Rotherwick. It will be similar to the present one. I am wary of making political predictions, but my guess is that it will be won by a Conservative, it will be a hereditary Peer, and it will be a man—there is a tip if any of you are going to the bookmaker’s.