Britain’s Strangest Election

By Joe Young - Deputy Culture Editor

A somewhat rare political occurrence has just happened – an election to the House of Lords. Below we discuss why this happens, and about the election itself


The Parliament of the United Kingdom is made of two houses – the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. The House of Commons has the majority of the power, and is where the Government is formed. The House of Lords is a quirky mix of hereditary peers, Anglican clergy, and life peers, appointed for their expertise.

In 1999, the then-Labour Government planned a big shake up of the House of Lords, which would have involved the abolishment of hereditary peers. Unsurprisingly, hereditary peers were far from impressed about this, with the Earl of Onslow famously saying:

I’m happy to force a division on each and every clause of the Scotland Bill. Each division takes 20 minutes and there are more than 270 clauses.

An amendment was proposed by Lord Weatherill, who suggested that 92 hereditary peers are retained, and elected from within the peers. Two of those are members of the Royal Household, 15 are ‘Deputy Speakers’ elected by cross-House choice, and the remaining 75 are elected from within their party groups – 42 Conservatives, 28 Crossbenchers (independents), three Liberal Democrats, and two Labour peers.

One of the Peers who did not make the cut in the initial series is John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso, commonly known as John Thurso. John Thurso, for 14 years, then sat in the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, but in the 2015 General Election, lost his seat to the Scottish National Party candidate Paul Monaghan.

Recently, Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer, passed away. As Thurso is the 3rd Viscount Thurso, he was eligible to stand. The final candidates were three Barons, two Earls, and a Viscount.

The By-Election itself took place today. The number of eligible voters? Two – the two remaining Liberal Democrat hereditary peers. John Thurso won the election with 100% (or both) of the votes cast – in a rare turn of events he has gone from Lord to MP to Lord once more. He also has the honour at this point of being the only winner of a Parliamentary By-Election in 2016.

Even if it is a bit of an odd one.

About Joe Young 316 Articles
Joe Young has been involved with student media for a very long time now, holding posts within The Pulse, and Pulse Radio, as well as the predecessor of The Pulse, Pluto. He is currently Politics Editor of The Pulse, and Head of News of Pulse Radio. In 2016, he won the Media Award for Best Article for his coverage of the Fishergate Shopping Centre bomb scare.

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