The people of Limerick may have forgotten they have their own namesake earl in the British aristocracy, but he has remembered to use their world famous way with words in order to fight for a seat in the House of Lords.
The bid by the earl of Limerick — or Christopher Edmund Pery to give him his more normal title — to grab one of the places reserved for hereditary peers in Westminster’s upper chamber has seen him pen a self-mocking poem which stops just short of being a fully-fledged limerick.
One of the peculiarities of Westminster’s upper chamber is that the only members with any hint of a democratic mandate are the 92 hereditary peers who were allowed to remain in the Lords when Tony Blair swept out the rest of the aristocracy.
Unlike the party nominees and Church of England bishops who make-up the rest of the chamber, the hereditary peers vote to replace a deceased lord or lady from among their number in a byelection. The earl of Limerick, also known as Lord Foxford, is one of the 14 candidates for the vacancy, and unlike the bland mission statements circulated by his rivals, he has chosen to woo support through rhyming verse, which reads:
“The upper house knows none so queer / A creature as a seatless peer.
“Flamingo-like he stands all day / With no support to hold his sway.
“And waits with covert eagerness / For ninety-two to be one less.
“Then on the hustings he must pace / Once more to plead his special case.
“Noble Lordships, spare a thought / For one so vertically distraught.
“And from your seats so well entrenched / Please vote that mine may be embenched.”
The 92 hereditary peers, also more unflatteringly known as the accidents of birth, were allowed to remain in the Lords via a compromise deal with then Labour prime minister Mr Blair who faced difficulty getting reform through the upper chamber without allowing some of the aristocracy to stay.
David Cameron is the first Conservative prime minister not to command a majority in the Lords and his government is furious at suffering a string of defeats at the hands of peers. Mr Cameron has ordered a review of the Lords’ powers after the chamber refused to back £4.4bn (€6.23bn) worth of welfare cuts to tax credits despite the elected House of Commons voting through the controversial measure three times.
The Lords byelection battle is hotting up with the candidates engaging in hustings tomorrow to try and win the backing of the 42 members of the Conservative group of hereditary peers eligible to vote.
In another surprising nod to the cutting edge of democracy, the peers use the alternative vote method to decide the election and the result will be announced on November 24.
The earl of Limerick is hoping for a better showing than in the last by-election in September when he secured just three votes, but that was without the aid of his very own verse of whimsy — and on that occasion he lost out to another aristo name with historic Irish connections, the duke of Wellington.
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