This Tuesday from 10am to 8pm there will be the welcome opportunity to elect a member of the House of the Lords. Naturally it is completely bizarre that only candidates who would have been eligible to be hereditary peers may stand, but that was the nature of the compromise needed to remove hereditaries from the Lords. For those following the referendum campaign it is amusing to note that we will be using the Alternative Vote system.
One of the issues of concern is whether protocol is again broken in the evolving Lords. The vacancy arose because of the sad death of David Strabolgi, a former Labour hereditary peer. Normally such vacancies are just voted on within the grouping where the vacancy arose – so for example the replacement of a Tory hereditary would be elected by eligible Tory ex-hereditary peers. But in this case David had been a deputy speaker when made a life peer and therefore was there as the choice of the whole House. Consequently all peers choose the replacement regardless of party. However the unwritten convention is that a Peer of the same party (or crossbench) would be chosen.
Apologies if this isn’t easy to follow, but I do hope that the convention holds and one of the Labour candidates is elected.
Incidentally, almost as confusing is the challenge that voters in Leicester South will face in the polling booth on May 5th. Following his selection as Labour candidate for mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby MP has announced he is resigning his seat in the Commons. This means a Parliamentary by-election is likely that day, alongside the council elections, the mayoral election and the referendum.
This means four ballot papers. One will be a first past the post election to replace their MP. The second will be to decide the mayor, will include the person some may think is still their MP, and will use a variant on the AV system limiting them to preferences 1 and 2 only. Then there will be a ballot paper asking them to again vote two or three times but using crosses not numbers because this is a first past the post election for multi-member wards on the council. Finally there will be the ballot paper asking them to vote yes or no for an alternative vote system for future Parliamentary elections.
What a nightmare! One which, incidentally I warned against during the debates on the Parliamentary Voting Systems Bill.