A dynastic affair

House of Lords

I suppose that, pretty much by definition, a by-election to replace an elected hereditary peer in the House of Lords is a dynastic affair….

But as what may be the world's smallest electorate gathers to replace the late Lord Avebury as an elected hereditary Liberal Democrat peer, a clash of Liberal dynasties looms.

Three current Lib Dem hereditaries are entitled to vote: Lord Addington, the descendent of a Conservative MP from the 1880s; the Earl of Glasgow, the descendent of one of the Scottish Commissioners who negotiated the 1703 Union of the kingdoms of Scotland and England; and the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, who is directly descended from the Liberal Prime Minister H H Asquith.

Family affair

Family links may count for a lot here; I understand the main contenders for those three votes are John Francis Russell, 7th Earl Russell, the son of Lords icon Conrad Russell, grandson of Bertrand Russell and great-great-grandson of Lord John Russell, a Liberal hero who was Prime Minister from 1864 to 1865, and moved the Great Reform Act in 1832. The current Earl has been a Lib Dem councillor in Lewisham and ran for the London Assembly.

Or there's Viscount Thurso - John Thurso - who was defeated in his Caithness and Sutherland seat last May, in the SNP landslide; he's a descendent of the wartime Liberal leader, Archie Sinclair, who served in Churchill's wartime coalition.

And he also sat in the Lords as a hereditary peer, until Labour's exclusion of the hereditaries allowed him to seek a Commons seat. He's now looking to emulate Lord Hailsham, who left the Lords to become an MP, and then went back later on, and the rumour is that his second coming to their Lordships' House is highly likely.

We'll know when the result is declared on 19 April; the count should not take very long.