My quiz question on the US Presidency attracted attention not only from readers in this country but also in the USA. One US blog raised the question of whether the dominance of the names of Nixon and Bush on presidential tickets meant that the US was acquiring a political aristocracy. As one contributor to that blog pointed out, there was only one Nixon. However, George W. Bush is the son of a former President and grandson of a distinguished Senator; his brother has also been a Governor. There are other wealthy families that have been active in US politics at different levels, not least the Kennedys and the Rockefellers. Various critics claim that Joe Kennedy bought the presidency for his son John.
While there is an element of dynastic influence in US politics, assisted by family wealth, it raises an interesting question as to whether such dynastic impact has declined in the UK. Wealthy families can no longer use their wealth to buy their way into politics in the way that was possible in the 19th Century and, to a lesser extent, in the first half of the 20th.
If there is still a political aristocracy in the UK, it arguably derives more from inherited family interest in politics than from inherited wealth. We see sons of MPs or former MPs enter politics. Hilary Benn is the son of one former Cabinet minister and grandson of another. So too is Douglas Hogg. There is a mother (widow of an MP) and son in the Commons. There are some peers who used to be MPs, such as Lord Hurd and Lord Jenkin, whose sons are now MPs. However, with one or two possible exceptions (such as Nicholas Soames and Michael Ancram) , there are no MPs who are scions of the great families. In the Lords, the Marquess of Salisbury is on leave of absence. The House of Lords is now a House of experience and expertise rather than a House of the great aristocrats.
Have I missed anyone? Or is it the case that political aristocracies based on wealth are now features of the USA but not the United Kingdom?