hereditary by-election

ERS condemn 'ludicrous' hereditary Peer by-election

3rd March 2017
3 Mar 2017
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary Peers
hereditary peer by-election
hereditary by-election
Electoral Reform Society
Katie Ghose


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The Electoral Reform Society have described the upcoming hereditary Peer by-election [1] in the House of Lords as a ‘farce’ and ‘the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up’.  

The ‘vote’ will take place in the House of Lords on the 21st March. Peers will decide from a small group of hereditary Lords who will be able to vote in the upper chamber for the rest of their lives – and claim £300 per day.

The vote have been described as ‘the most elitist election in the world’, and follows the passing of Lord Lyell. 

All of the 27 candidates are men and more than half are over 60.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Yet again we are witnessing the farce of a hereditary Peer ‘by-election’ – the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up. There are just 30 voters per candidate in this so-called election. Lords are literally picking their peers from a tiny pool of aristocrats.

“The most bizarre thing is that the electorate of 804 is actually the largest in years – some of the by-elections in the past have had an electorate of three or less [2], a total embarrassment to our politics. Most of the time it is only the handful of current hereditary Peers from each group who can pick a new person to sit in our upper house for the rest of their lives.

“Ending this absurd practice should be addressed urgently. For most people, it is simply astonishing that in the 21st century, a small cadre of hereditary Lords still decide who sits in our legislature and who votes on laws that affect us all.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs that an act to end this ludicrous practice once and for all was dropped by Peers just a few months ago. It was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. This issue must be revisited and tackled as soon as possible, for the sake of faith in our institutions and democracy. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’.

“Scrapping the hereditary peer system must be the first step in the process of cutting the second largest chamber on Earth down to size – and replacing it with a fairly elected revising chamber that can represent us all.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”


For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - / 07717211630. 

Notes to Editors


[2] See here