House of Lords: Campaigners call for reform as just 18 votes decide new lifetime hereditary appointment

House of Lords: Campaigners call for reform as just 18 votes decide new lifetime hereditary appointment

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, Wednesday 9 February.
  • Contact Jon Narcross, / 07794728820 for interviews or more information.

Campaigners are calling for an overhaul to the archaic system of hereditary peer by-elections after the latest election saw a new aristocrat join the House of Lords with just 18 votes.

Lord Strathcarron will take a seat for life in the unelected second chamber after fellow hereditary peers staged another by-election following the resignation of Viscount Ridley in December 2021 [1].

Conservative Strathcarron was announced as the newest hereditary peer to take his seat in the Lords following Tuesday’s election which saw ten candidates take part in the election for which there were just 36 votes cast.

There have been eight new aristocrats ‘elected’ to the Lords in the last 12 months with another due this spring following the retirement of Conservative peer Lord Rotherwick on 1 February [2].

In July 2021 the Viscount Stansgate, son of former Labour MP Tony Benn who famously renounced his peerage, joined the Lords in an uncontested election – taking a lifetime seat without so much as a single vote cast [3].

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director (Campaigns) at the Electoral Reform Society, said: 

“It’s hard to overstate just how ludicrous it is, that in 2022, a handful of aristocrats still have the power to choose our lawmakers.

“These elections do little more than gift seats for life in our legislature – a lifetime appointment to make our laws for which the public get no say.

“This process is an insult to voters, who only last week headed to the polls in their thousands to be heard in the Southend West by-election. At the same time, just a handful of peers continue to have the power to pack the Lords with unelected aristocrats. It would be funny if the stakes were not so high.

“We urgently need to modernise this private members’ club and make sure these so-called elections are the last. It’s time to scrap hereditary peerages for good, as a stepping stone to real reform. We need a proportionally-elected revising chamber that’s fit for purpose.

“It’s the people, not peers who should decide on who makes our laws. For that, we need a genuinely democratic upper house at last.”