Friday, March 17, 2006

My new title

Jonathan Calder highlights the Elect the Lords campaign’s website that invites people to buy virtual peerages in the wake of the scandal besetting the Labour party.

I have long had a pleasing political fantasy that runs as follows. A Liberal Democrat government finds its plans for second chamber reform blocked by opposition placemen and placewomen in the House of Lords. To overcome this it decides on a mass ennoblement of loyal Lib Dems. And how better to achieve this than to award peerages to all the party's council group leaders? In order to satirise the whole system, those of us who happen to be majority group leaders could have titles a step or two higher than mere barons or baronesses. Having got my ferret-trimmed gown and seat on the red leather benches, I would immediately be overcome by the weight of historical tradition and realise the importance of having an upper chamber able to reach reasoned conclusions free from immediate electoral pressures. If enough of us went the same way, we could preserve the existing arrangements.

The only question is what title to take. I should probably include Watford somewhere in there. But then there already is a Lord Evans of Watford. And if one takes the place where one lives as a title it may seem as though one is literally trying to lord it over one's neighbours. So that won’t do!

Maybe then I should look further back into my past for inspiration. I grew up in the north east of Scotland, where the nearest town was Montrose. But this would invite comparisons with the great civil war royalist commander, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and I don’t want to get delusions of grandeur. (Incidentally, Montrose is widely but erroneously believed to have been hanged at Edinburgh in 1650. In fact he cheated the gallows, has exceeded Lord Bonkers for longevity, but sadly came down in the world and is now a mere Lib Dem blogger.)

So, perhaps I should look to the place where I lived, the small fishing village of Johnshaven (‘Johnner’ to locals), Kincardineshire. While it is too small a place to have a marquisate or earldom named after it, maybe a viscountcy would do. So there we have it: Iain Sharpe, 1st Viscount Johnshaven. That sounds about right.

I’ll go online now and buy my new virtual title – an elected House of Lords is certainly a worthwhile cause. But then again, I’m a grippy Scot at heart, with short arms and deep pockets. I wouldn’t want to waste money that I could spend on beer or books. Perhaps I should just know my place and remain a commoner.

1 comment:

Angus J Huck said...

I don't suppose anyone is ever likely to offer me a peerage, but if the unthinkable happened, I would have to choose as a title the name of one of the farms which my ancestors worked as yeomen.

Mart Close in Westmorland is the ancestral seat of the Hucks (and has a Lib Dem councillor and a Lib Dem MP). Then there are North Lobb and Bickenbridge, freehold farms in the County of Devon held by one Thomas Knill, born 1441. But I would have to ask Nick Harvey's permission. And I would need to consult the hundreds of others descended from Richard Huck and Thomas Knill. They might want to same titles!

(Lord George-Brown couldn't call himself "Lord Brown" or "Lord Belper", because those titles had already been taken. Gordon will run into similar difficulties.)

I'm all for people calling themselves whatever makes them feel happy. Titles are not the issue. It is having unelected people in the Legislature which is unacceptable in a democracy.