First of all, some good news for people who like the idea of hereditary peers in the House and have some idea of history: we now have a Duke of Wellington in Parliament as the latest holder of that title has just been elected by Conservative Peers to the House of Lords.
It would have been nice to report that it was a "damn close run thing" as the Duke is supposed to have said or "It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life" as he actually said to Thomas Creevey but this blog has to record that the 9th Duke won hands down.
A total of 48 other hereditary Conservative peers voted in the election under the alternative vote system and, after four transfers of votes, the Duke ended up with 21 votes, beating the Marquess of Abergavenny and the Earl of Harrowby, who picked up six votes each.What was that about wanting politicians who have experience outside politics?
Before the vote, the 70-year-old peer said: “I have aspired to serve in the Lords since I first became interested in politics. I stood for the House of Commons in 1974 and was elected to the European parliament in 1979 for two terms.
“Since then I have been chairman of a life insurance company, a luxury goods company and a fund management company. I have been a commissioner of English Heritage and am currently chairman of the Council of King’s College, London.”
Moving on to related matters. Tuesday saw a long debate in the House of Lords about future developments and reforms. I intend to write more about that debate, which I have not finished reading yet. Right now, I want to turn my attention to Lord Pearson's Motion to Resolve on which he spoke twice: once during the debate itself and once after it.
As I shall say in future postings I did not agree with everything the noble lord said in his main speech though I do not disagree with his fight for more UKIP peers, given the fact that the Prime Minister decided to give a peerage to a number of Lib-Dim politicians whose great achievement was to lose their seats in the May General Election. I also found his comments at the end of the debate interesting and useful for anyone who wishes to become involved in the discussion:
My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, chided me for not including the Scottish National Party in my Motion and remarks. The reason for that omission is that, regrettably, it does not want any seats here, let alone the 35 which its performance at the last general election would give it under the Liberal Democrat coalition policy.Will the Prime Minister pay attention to that and any future debates? Who can tell?
One other important suggestion has been brought home to me during this lengthy but creative debate. We should not concentrate so much on the total size of your Lordships’ House as on average daily attendance. The Library tells me that, as of last week, actual membership was 775, but our average daily attendance is only 483. Yet, before most of the hereditary Peers left us in 1999, we numbered some 1,325 Peers, but the average daily attendance was only some 446, so it is not much more today. Of course, it is daily attendance that costs taxpayers money. Peers who do not attend do not get the daily allowance. If the public understood that better it might do something for our suffering reputation.
That said, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have supported me. Ever an optimist, I hope that the Prime Minister will take note of our debate. I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
The figures and the fact that Peers get paid expenses for daily attendance only are worth noting, however.