The Hereditary Principle

Tony Benn loves to use the analogy of the Hereditary Lords as being like getting on a jet plane where the pilot has been chosen because his father was a pilot. He means that it is so absurd that of course you wouldn\’t do things that way.

Ed Gardner, who has now turned 20, is believed to be Britain\’s youngest commercial pilot.

He got a job at Titan Airways the day after he received his licence and within days was crewing with his father, Bob, 55, a captain.

Mr Gardner, from Stebbing, near Great Dunmow, Essex, said: "I started flying at 14 – that is the youngest you have to be to learn.

"I flew solo at 16 and got my private pilot\’s licence on my 17th birthday.


7 thoughts on “The Hereditary Principle”

  1. Benn surely means that you wouldn’t want a pilot who had no claim to the job other than a hereditary one. Some peers have been fantastic, others not far short of dribbling idiots. All had the right to sit in the Lords. That’s wrong. We’d have seen Cecils in government without the hereditary principle but not Spencers.

  2. … no claim to the job other than a hereditary one

    I was under the impression that the point of hereditary office was that each generation would receive training from a very young age and incentive not to cock it up in order to preserve the family honour (or whatever).

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    The other advantage in the hereditary system, or at least having part of the system that way, is that it is gives continuity. Tony Blair would, I think, loot the country like any Third World dictator if he could. Peers have always tended to stick around.

    However did anyone ask Tony Benn if he thinks his granddaughter Emily, who has just been selected for a Labour seat at the tender age of 17 I believe, was picked entirely on her merits?

  4. “Benn surely means that you wouldn’t want a pilot who had no claim to the job other than a hereditary one.”

    Hillary Benn is clearly qualified to be an MP and a minister. Actually, I’m not being sarcastic there: he’s a useless tosser who never did a proper days work in his life, been a political player and candidate MP all his “working” life. A perfect New Labour MP.

  5. I recall seeing a rebuttal to Benn’s logic along the lines of:

    Fine, so propose an alternative that doesn’t involve handing the controls over to a popular passenger, with no background in flying, who got the jobe only because he promised the residents of the rows behind the galley on one side of the plane that he’d sort out the smell from the toilets. Because giving those two options, I’d stick with the fellow that was brought up around flying, who was given advice and anecdotes on flying from a young age and who has probably been around planes from birth – rather than the popular passenger who doesn’t even really know how he’s going to fix the loos.

    Which isn’t to say that there are good arguments to use against hereditary power – just that Benn’s argument is superficial and flawed under the slightest investigation.

  6. Why are you picking on that young pilot? I see no reason to assume that the skills needed to fly a ‘plane or drive an F1 car are not largely hereditary, cf. Graham Hill & Damon Hill etc.

  7. We are apt to overlook that since the Parliament Act of 1948, the constitutional powers of the Lords to block government legislation are minimal.

    The Lords can’t stop or amend government finance bills and it can only block other government legislation for a year unless it is a bill to extend the life of Parliament beyond five years.

    Britain may have a bicameral legislature but in academic texts on comparative constitutions, the legislative powers of the Lords rate as weak compared with, say, the US Senate or the German Bundesrat.

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