Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peerless eccentric

The Earl of Onslow died at the weekend, which is a great shame for fans of eccentric members of the aristocracy. Onslow was one of the 92 hereditary peers who were saved the axe that fell on members of the House of Lords in 1999, but he was in favour of an elected Upper Chamber, once saying that he yearned for a House of Lords
"in which there will be no more place for a descendent of someone who got pissed with Pitt the Younger than for a man who once adorned the Cabinet in the useless position of secretary of state for prices and consumer protection".
I agree with the Earl about not giving peerages to useless Cabinet members - see Lord Prescott - but I would far rather have as a legislator someone whose relative once got pissed with Pitt than an elected senator.

The great thing about hereditary peers in my view is that they do the job purely out of a sense of duty and because of the cheap wine on offer in the Palace of Westminster rather than out of any need to campaign for my vote by making promise they won't keep.

I'd have an Upper House made up only of hereditary peers and an assortment of appointed national treasures from politics, the arts and industry (Stanley Johnson, Michael Palin, Floella Benjamin and Paddy Ashdown, say. And perhaps the bloke who used to run M&S.) Leave elections out of it. Look what elections have done for the House of Commons.

Onslow, who was occasionally a popular guest on Have I Got News for You, delightfully always referred to himself as "a disloyal Conservative", which strikes me as the very best politician to be.

He also once hosted a Radio 3 series on a variety of music styles including rap, acid jazz and thrash metal, introducing it each week with "It's time to get tripping with me, Lord Onslow".

We need to be governed by more politicians like this.

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