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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 April 2019

Developed world’s smallest electorate chooses latest hereditary Lord

Grandson of famed 20th century playboy in race for seat in House of Lords

Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, at the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in 2015. Britain's parliament is split into two chambers. AFP 
Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, at the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in 2015. Britain's parliament is split into two chambers. AFP 

The smallest election for a national legislature in the developed world takes place on Tuesday, and it involves a 25-year-old hereditary peer lucky enough to have inherited the title from his playboy grandfather.

It can only be at the House of Lords, an institution going back as far as the 14th century with members related to aristocracy. Britain’s second chamber passes through legislation and acts as a checks and balance to the lower ‘House of Commons’ chamber full of elected MPs.

On Tuesday, just 31 eligible voters will choose from one of 14 candidates to be the next crossbench-hereditary peer.

Candidates to become the next crossbench Lord already have the title ‘Lord’ handed down to them thanks to relatives. At the age of 25, Lord Glenconner (Cody Tennant) is the youngest up for election. He inherited his title from his playboy grandfather who left the family fortune to his St Lucian servant rather than his grandson, Cody, in 2010.

The dispute between Cody Tennant (the present-day Lord Glenconner) and Kent Adonai, a St Lucian fisherman and servant close to the late Lord Glenconner, is finally settled.

According to The Times newspaper, Glenconner’s grandfather infamously led a lavish lifestyle partying with Princess Margaret on the Caribbean Island of Mustique before living in St Lucia.

The Tennant family owe their fortune to Charles Tennant, an 18th-century Scottish scientist and businessman who patented bleaching powder. Lord Glenconner bought the barren island of Mustique for £45,000 in 1958 and transformed it into a party island for the rich and famous.

“At the age of 25 I represent a younger professional generation and would make a strong contribution to the debates and committees of the House,” said Lord Glenconner in a candidates list published by the House of Lords.

“These are uncertain times in our continuously changing society and I would bring fresh insights and ideas to the House of Lords.”

The 25-year-old Lord is up against a London schoolteacher and a number of major land owners including 76-year-old Lord de Ramsay, owner of a 6,000-acre family estate.

The House of Lords can both pass and block bills presented by the House of Commons, but are not elected by the general public.

Archbishops, bishops and land owners formed the House of Lords chamber in the 14th century, three centuries after the original parliament was founded by Saxon kings.

British politicians have called for the house to be reformed for over 100 years. In 2011, a draft bill by then-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg proposing 80 percent of Lords be elected was dropped by the coalition government.

Tuesday’s elections take place due to the death of Viscount Slim, a former British military commander.

There are five titles of peerage available. In descending order of rank, they are: duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron. The highest rank of the peerage, duke, is the most exclusive.

A peer is someone who holds one (or more) of five possible titles (duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron) inherited from a direct ancestor or bestowed upon him by the monarch.

Many in the House of Lords can trace their family ancestry back to noblemen and knights from the era of the Tudors, some 450 years ago.

Updated: March 28, 2019 04:01 AM

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