Three Asquiths - and maybe a Benn?

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Yesterday's by-election for a hereditary peer, to fill the seat of the late Lord Methuen has put a third descendent of the Liberal Prime Minister H H Asquith into the Upper House.

The Earl of Oxford and Asquith, elected yesterday with 155 votes out of the 283 cast*, inherits the peerage created for the family patriarch after he lost his Commons seat in 1924.

He joins the Crossbencher Lord Hylton, who, like him, is descended from Asquith's oldest son, Raymond, who was killed in action during the First World War; and Lady (Jane) Bonham Carter, a Lib Dem, who is descended from Asquith's daughter Violet, who married his private secretary, and became a life peer in 1964.

Whatever the merits, or otherwise, of the slightly bizarre system of by-elections to replace hereditary peers, they do keep political dynasties going. At some point in the future we may be able to enjoy a rich political irony, because the pool of hereditary peers available to Labour is pretty small.

The next time a hereditary vacancy arises on their benches, one of the most obvious candidates is the scientist Stephen Benn, the 3rd Viscount Stansgate, who took the title after his father, the late Tony Benn won his battle half a century ago, to renounce his peerage and remain in the Commons. An irony that will be savoured in some political Valhalla.

* Nerd note: the election was by the whole House of Lords rather than just by Lib Dem hereditaries, because the late Lord Methuen remained in the Lords on the removal of most hereditary peers by virtue of being elected to office in the House by all peers.