The Third Viscount Stansgate

I’ve long wondered about this. Indeed, I’m in print, somewhere or other, wondering about this before Tony Benn’s death. Now we have our answer:

Tomorrow, Stephen Benn, 69, a lobbyist for the biosciences industry and the eldest of Benn’s four children, will be announced as the successful candidate in a contest to take a lifelong hereditary seat in the Lords. In so doing, the 3rd Viscount Stansgate will assume the right to make and amend laws, and claim hundreds of pounds in tax-free allowances for attending the chamber. He will also take his seat without a democratic or even a customary internal vote.

26 thoughts on “The Third Viscount Stansgate”

  1. The article explains this but paywall….

    There were four Labour hereditaries. One died. So, the electorate is three. The vote is not all hereditaries, it’s those who belong to the party which has the vacancy.

    There was only one candidate. So, elected unopposed. Or, in fact, they didn’t bother to have the vote at all.

  2. So ‘Tony’ Benn renounced his title to show Labour voters that he really was a man of the people (rather than just a Marxist mole), thus improving his chances of election as a Labour candidate but probably knew that, as his title was hereditary, his eldest son would inherit it? To me, this shows that he truly was a hypocrite. But then, he was also a politician (who closed more coal mines than Thatcher) so the two would go hand in hand.

  3. He also never did hand over the family publishing fortune, that was kept in trust. As was his wife’s similar stash. And that great big family house in the coast, that was kept along with the Holland Park (?) one.

    Tony was significantly wealthy. Significantly…..

  4. So the 3rd Viscount Stansgate has the same size electorate as the MP for the rotten borough of Old Sarum pre Reform Act.

    As an idle question, if all four Labour hereditaries were to pop their clogs at the same time, who would vote the new ones in?

  5. And that great big family house in the coast . . .

    Is that the one that had its sea defences repaired at public expense by the Environment Agency while the rest of the Suffolk / Essex coast was left to erode? When the Secretary of State for the Environment happened to be the Right Hon. H. Benn?

  6. Aye. Strange how that happens to a third generation cabinet minister, fifth generation MP, eh?

  7. How to reform The Lords.

    (i) Expel bishops.
    (ii) Let the hereditaries (ignoring royal dukes and Irish peers) elect 100 members from among themselves.
    (iii) Let Life Peers elect 100 members from among themselves. Several categories of Life Peer may not be elected and may not vote, to wit former employees of HMG (e.g. no ex-civil servants, no ex-judges, no ex-generals or admirals), ex-MPs, ex-employees of NGOs and charities that are largely funded by HMG, ex-BBC, and other hangers-on I’ll think of in a minute.
    (iv) There will be a term limit of service in the Lords of ten years.

    You could write a Bill to effect that on one side of A4 with a few pages of detailed regulations attached.

  8. I’d rather he replaced his scheming self-righteous europhile brother Hilary. Grifting is bad, but treason is worse.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ You could write a Bill to effect that on one side of A4 with a few pages of detailed regulations attached.”

    And which Turkeys do you expect to pass said Bill?

    We need the French to have another revolution and send a signal to our ruling elites that if they don’t change Their ways they’ll be next on the block.

  10. Bloke in North Dorset

    We’ve had a revolution since the Civil War because our ruling classes have usually offered just enough reform to divert attention when the middle classes started getting uppity. Seeing events like the French Revolution reminds them to keep reforming and not take the piss.

    Or at least that’s the case made by the history teacher on one of my Army education courses when we discussed we hadn’t had a revolution since the civil war. Having listened to the Revolutions podcast that started with the English civil war and covered American, France, Haiti, Mexico, South America, 1848 and is concluding with the Russian Revolutions I think he had a point.

  11. @ Grikath
    We need them to produce champagne and claret.
    It’s the effete Yanks, who wanted to hide the fact that they didn’t join either World war until after Germany couldn’t win who tried to smear the French. France’s military casualties were over 0.5% of its total population, the USA’s were 0.31% – if you add in France’s civilian casualties due to the War of 0.94% that’s over four times the US death rate. The American chickens didn’t declare war on Germany until after Hitler declared war on the USA after Pearl Harbour.

  12. “We’ve had a revolution since the Civil War because our ruling classes have usually offered just enough reform to divert attention when the middle classes started getting uppity. Seeing events like the French Revolution reminds them to keep reforming and not take the piss.”

    I read something once that posited (possibly tongue in cheek) that cricket saved the aristocracy in the UK. By playing a sport where the Lord competed on an equal basis to his workers both sides gained a better knowledge of the other, and prevented a revolution……

  13. Bloke in North Dorset


    There’s probably something in that as feedback mechanisms, or lack of them, were part of the problem. In Russia the first minister was forging letters from peasants saying how they loved the Tsar and feeding them to Alexandra when Nicholas was away taking personal command of the war effort.

  14. I’m at a loss to understand why reluctance to get into a war 3500 miles away is effete. Particularly as the USA didn’t have a land fighting capability of any serious extent. It being a long way from any potential enemies.
    In fact it’s hard to see why it chose to get involved in European squabbles at all. Fighting for other people’s freedom rarely produces any benefits or, as we can see from John77, much in the way of thanks. If Hitler had consolidated his European empire, no doubt lucrative trade between Europe & the States would have recommenced. Balance of power between The Greater German Prosperity Zone & the USSR would have meant no Cold War. The Japanese attack on Pearl could have been responded to with the US’s undivided attention. War ended a year earlier?

  15. BiS: If the US had snuggled up to Adolf and avoided a European war, it’s hard to see why they would have put sanctions on trade with Japan and made it decide to attack.

    Anyway, I’m sure Germany’s satellites, Holland and Britain, would have been happy to keep up the supply of oil from the Middle East and the Dutch East Indies. And the Japanese would have had access to the industries of Europe.

    I imagine in these circumstances the Yanks would have been happy to let the Japs keep up their squabble with the Russians over who ruled China. This would have meant the US could have avoided the Commies taking over China without wasting a man or a dollar on the place.

  16. The Yanks joined the Great War, because the Atlantic was becoming a bit dangerous and the Germans tried to entice Mexico into the conflict.
    Oh and all that lovely British gold and silver.

  17. @boganboy Alternative histories are always difficult. Change one thing & there’s knock on effects. Mine’s an attempt to keep as close to real tome events as possible. Lack of support from the US, the UK sues for peace. The Empire adopts a neutral stance re Germany. Barbarossa still happens & with a similar outcome. But the front stabilises & the Wehrmacht isn’t pushed into retreat because allied bombing isn’t degrading German manufacturing capability. Japan still makes the mistake of Pearl & sparks off a war it cannot win. There’s no reason Germany would support Japan. It’s not in its interests. Japanese defeat puts the US/Empire dominant in the Far East/China & threatening the USSR’s eastern flank. Suits Germany fine.
    It may not have been a bad world to live in. Rising prosperity in Europe undermines German militarism. Essentially the EU comes earlier. Communism gets stifled everywhere but Russia so the absence of all those proxy wars. The philosophy’s firmly in the history books where it belongs, by the 80s. Maybe some tech develops slower with the absence of wartime incentives.

  18. In passing, I worked with a relative of Tony Benn, back during the First Wislon Terror. I didn’t get the impression he was his greatest fan. He made some comment about his Tootle shirts. Or maybe I misheard.

  19. @ bis
    Britain was never going to sue for peace while Churchill and George VI were alive and certainly not by December 1941, more than a year after the Battle of Britain, and six months after the RN sank the Bismark leaving the U-boats virtually Germany’s only naval force. In the second half of 1941 the UK was supplying aircraft and munitions to Russia – not something that would be done if they were that desperately needed to defend the UK that it was within a million miles of suing for peace.
    You may have forgotten that the British Empire was the only military force anywhere near as strong as Nazi Germany in 1939: the USA couldn’t have made that much difference militarily in 1939 if it had tried – however it would have had a psychological impact and might have deterred Germany’s armed forces from blindly following Hitler.

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