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Hereditary Peers By-election

Volume 832: debated on Wednesday 20 September 2023


The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the by-election to elect two hereditary Peers, in place of Lord Palmer and Lord Hylton.

Twenty-three Lords submitted valid ballots. A notice detailing the results is available in the Printed Paper Office and online. The successful candidates were Lord Meston and Lord De Clifford.

There is always the possibility.

My Lords, that was the result of a Cross-Bench hereditary Peers by-election. It could only happen in this place; try explaining it to anyone outside this House. Try it on the schools programme as an A-level level question: “Describe the constitutional significance of the Cross-Bench hereditary Peers by-elections”. We have a long way to go before that will make sense to anyone outside this place, and I doubt whether, as much as we are proud of our constitution, anyone would want to copy it anywhere else.

In the past, the Cross-Benchers produced the most thrilling by-election result in this whole 20-year saga. I will just remind the House of the by-election result that took place just a year ago. There were 21 valid votes; the winning candidate got 11 votes and the runner-up 10. It does not get more exciting than that; it is the most marginal seat. However, I cannot give any more detail about this by-election because of the same old problem. It is not the clerk’s fault, but we should get a bit more information about these by-elections to go in Hansard when the results come out. We should have some figures. We want subsequent generations to be able to read it and ponder what on earth it was all about.

However, I can say a couple of things. First, at this by-election there was an electorate of 32, all men. The turnout, as we have just been told, was 23, so there was about a 75% turnout. There were 13 candidates, all men. I will make just a couple of observations about some of the candidates, who never cease to provide material. One of them has been trying now for 13 years to be successful in one of these elections; this is his 16th attempt. The last attempt he made a couple of years ago did not result in him getting any votes. I have nothing but admiration for that. If you have lost as many elections as I have over the years, to keep going for 13 years and 16 attempts is terrific. Another candidate has been trying for just 10 years—this was his seventh attempt. However, there is a remarkable little history here: of those seven attempts, one was to be a Cross-Bencher, one to be a Conservative and one to be a Lib Dem. Presumably he is now waiting for a Labour vacancy.

I like to end on a happy note, and I have some really good news for the 11 candidates who were unsuccessful in this by-election. There are two more by-elections in the pipeline, and they have to be held within three months—that is the maximum time allowed. So, with a fair wind, a couple of the losers today could be with us by Christmas.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Meston and Lord De Clifford, and hope they contribute well to this House, notwithstanding the excellent and amusing comments of the noble Lord Grocott. I will also say—I am not a hereditary Peer myself—that the hereditary element in this House, elected now in some quaint way, in fact contributes a great deal more than many of us life Peers.