Any interested fellow citizen who was told how the latest recruit to their Parliament was chosen would be first baffled, then outraged. Is it any wonder that there are more electors who favour the complete abolition of the House of Lords than support retention of the existing arrangements?
The provisions for the replacement of one of our hereditary Peers, when deceased, are confusing, complicated and downright contradictory.
The latest election result, announced by the Lord Speaker on Wednesday afternoon, may seem to be relatively simple: our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister. He was chosen in an AV election, but gained 50%+ on the first count, so no reallocation of the votes of lower scoring candidates was required.
There are, however, two absurdities: First, by one of the many “charming quirks” of the composition of the Lords, the replacement for Robert attracted 13 Hereditary Peer candidates advertising themselves as Conservatives and Crossbenchers, in addition to the two Liberal Democrats. Under a special provision of the cross-party carve-up of 1998/9, they were permitted to stand – and all Members of the House were entitled to vote – because Robert Methuen had been a Deputy Chairman. And yet it was said to be a solid convention that the winner had to be from and for the political group of the Peer to be replaced. Other groups had to exercise a self-denying ordinance in preferring our candidates!
Second absurdity: no complaints at all from the arch opponents of the Alternative Vote system during the 2011 referendum that we have the benefit of it here in the House for internal elections. For them it’s a case of “accept what we say” not “do as we do”.