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UKIP's Lord Dartmouth and the curious case of the disappearing peerage

Martyn Oates | 16:46 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

William Dartmouth

As Nigel Farage is elevated (once again) to the UKIP leadership, his fellow MEP William Dartmouth appears to be sliding down the social scale.

The South West UKIP MEP is the 10th Earl of Dartmouth. However, a recent communication from the party's press office suggests he's laid aside his 300-year-old peerage.

The email in questions blithely refers to the noble lord as "Mr Dartmouth" no fewer than three times.

If he's really renounced his peerage, surely he should be using his family name and calling himself "Mr Legge"?

This is precisely what Tony Benn did (ditching the double-barrelled Wedgewood bit along the way) when he stopped being Viscount Stansgate in order to qualify for election to the House of Commons in 1963.

Since the House of Lords Act 1999, though, hereditary peers are no longer barred from standing for the Commons (as the same Act removed their entitlement to sit in the Lords).

And the European Parliament - graced for 20 years by the head of Europe's grandest royal family - has long extended a warm welcome to the blue-blooded.

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