Monday, December 14, 2009

Trumping Lady Trumpington

Baroness Trumpington is an institution. Today, while debating the Equality Bill, she made a very good point about House of Lords titles. The wife of a peer becomes known as Lady x, but the husband of a female peer remains plain Mister. You may very think that more serious issues lie before the country, and you'd be right, but indulge me.

Lady Trumpington tells of embarrassing stays in hotels, ostensibly with a man with a different surname. Eyebrows were raised. But it gets worse. I shall now trump Lady Trumpington's dilemma.

Let's really enter the realm of fantasy and imagine for one delicious moment that David Cameron plucks me from the nether regions of the Approved Candidates List and decides I'd make a great new member of the House Lords. [Adopts Frankie Howerd voice] No, stop laughing at the back! Listen, no listen, Mrs!

Would my civil partner get a title? I suspect Lady Dale wouldn't be the one he'd go for seeing as he is neither a 'Laydee' nor called Dale. As far as I know there aren't any civil partnered gay couples in the Lords.

It doesn't solve the Trumpington hotel dilemma, but why not just allow husbands, civil partners etc to call themselves The Hon. X?

Or does anyone have another suggestion?

Or don't you give a damn? Oh well, this post passed a happy few minutes on the 17.23 from Charing Cross, if nothing else!


Tom said...

Why not Gentleman X?

Unknown said...

My suggestion is replace them all with elected members.

Why should anybody get a title for being the partner of somebody apointed to rule over us.

Lord Palmerston said...

Bizarrely* (and slightly worryingly) this 'problem' crossed my mind the other day and equally bizarrely (but perhaps slightly less worryingly) I also thought that the extension of the title 'Hon.' would be a good solution (I must confess that I don't the origin of this term and whether it would be an acceptable extension of it).

*Not only because of the co-incidence but also because I do not expect to be elevated to the House of Lords and because I am not in a position where I would ever need to enter into a civil partnership.

Ralph Hancock said...

Why should your partner not want to be called 'Lady'? The word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon hlafdige, maker of the loaf. 'Lord' is from hlaford, guardian of the loaf. Neither is a sexual designation. We must liberate these words from the paternalistic and discriminatory bondage into which a sexist society has cast them.

Anonymous said...

Good post ha ha....

I think that the way to deal with Lady Trumpinton's serious problem is....

.... get rid of the House of Lords and then we can have an elected Senate like every other serious country.... about 50 senators? Should save a packet of money.

What say you?

BTW, what does Peter Mandleson's partner get called? (That's a serious question btw, in case you thought I ws joking. Equality is supposed to mean equality. I don't know if Peter and his other half have become civil partners, but if they have surely he is entitled to be raised to the aristocracy as well?)

Bon said...

A technical 'hot potato', which could be argued to infinity and beyond (Sorry, just watched the Toy Story 3 trailer!)

Perhaps rather than trying to give other halves titles, just get rid of titles for Wives of Peers. Job done.

Oh hang on, thats too easy innit? Arguing the Rights of Husbands and Civil Partners could keep people in Pay for a VERY long time.

Ian M said...

Its not just males than that can be embarrassed by having a name diffreent from their spouse.

Senior Scottish judges are in a similar position. Members of both the Inner House and the Outer House of the Court of Session are entitled to call themselves "Lord x" but their wives cannot call themselves "Lady x" So if you are a hotel receptionist and Lord Carloway checked in with Mrs. Jane Sutherland,no illicent judicial hochmagandy is taking place, they are man and wife

ACB said...

Or why not just stop giving titles to the wives of male members of the Lords...MPs' wives/husbands don't get any sort of honorary title, so why should the wives/husbands of Peers?

Unknown said...

Yes, I have another suggestion.

Leave titles for the hereditary aristocracy, if they want to use them and if anyone cares. Call Lady Trumpington "Mrs Trumptinton, ML" for "Member of the Lords" ..... or whatever.

The use of titles demeans the upper chamber, and makes the country look rather ridiculous, while encouraging people to cheat and bribe so that they can have the honour and perceived status of calling themselves "Lord".

My £0.02 worth.

Lord Blagger said...

When they start calling the check out girl at tescos, my noble, I'll stop thinking of them as tossers.

Ronald has it right.

They have no mandate to rule over us.

They have been theiving public funds hand of fist.

Those that haven't have stood by and let it happen. As one said to me, its a mystery. Bugger that, it's not a mystery. You let them

Anonymous said...

Until you brought it up, I hadn't given it a thought.

It's so trivial that I've now forgotten it.

Joking aside, I agree with Ronald @ 6:21

John said...

Why not plain 'Guest'. So and so and guest.

But then does anybody really care?

Joe Public said...

"........why not just allow husbands, civil partners etc to call themselves The Hon. X?"

With so many troughing, dishonourable members of the upper house, why?

Sen. C.R.O'Blene said...

The 17.23 is just about all that's left of our once efficient railway, and I now have to change trains thereafter...

Just get on with it, most people will listen, and those that don't have their own problems...

Baroness Trumpington marked her card with a 'no' when she got all silly and spiteful to Ken Livingstone once, and all because he likes newts!

He won that one!

Erskine May said...

Sorry Iain, you wouldn't be the first: there are already peers with civil partners.

Anonymous said...

its all down to men being polite to ladies (with a small 'l'.)

But Ronald is right - this tiresome problem could be avoided by abolishing Honours.

Lord Blagger said...

Citizen Trumpton

Unknown said...


I agree whith you except on the matter of money. When considering how we are ruled cost should only be a minor consideration.

If we want to save money get rid of both houses and the monarchy. Install me as dictator for life. I would not cost much a few million a year would do. I would take any expenses straight from the Bank of England.

Widsor castle would make a nice residance I would just have it moved a bit.

The King of Wrong said...

@Tom: because most aren't? ;)

@Ronald/@tris: why bother with a bicameral system, then? If you're going to elect both houses, then they are not statistically independent and you lose any benefits of having two.

I'm not convinced there's a problem with titles, though. As sexist and outdated as it seems, I don't believe there's a huge clamour for men to gain titles through their wives rather than for their own achievements. I certainly couldn't see myself as a "househusband".

Anonymous said...

Simply get rid of all these different ridiculous titles and replace them with suitably grand gender-neutral ones: "Nobleperson" and "Noblespouseperson". Traditonal values in a modern setting.

Anonymous said...

Nobody cares about members of the House of Lords, and I suspect even fewer care about their spouses.

If David C were to offer you such a poisoned chalice I suggest you follow in the footsteps of the former Viscount Stansgate.

Anonymous said...

Agreed just get rid of this outmoded House
Just get an elected second chamber and no titles

jailhouselawyer said...

It's so 1984. Honourable beomes dishonourable. Parliament has lost the moral authority.

Anonymous said...


Fair enough, the reduction in cost would be an agreeable bonus. The main thing is why on earth do we have 'nobles' ruling us in the 21st century. It's silly and laughable.

Let's get rid of them

Actually in Scotland where most of OUR laws are passed we only have one house and it does a good enough job on laws, regardless of the party in government.

There is no real need for a so called "upper" house

Lord Blagger said...

Why get a second lot of troughers?

Why not allow the electorate a vote on each act? It can be done cheaply. Far cheaper than the cost of 2,000 a day per Lord.

Why do we need huge numbers of laws?

Is it two laws good, four laws better?


Lets have referenda by proxy, its cheap and solves many other problems at the same time


Nigel said...

To be fair, the original question was from Baroness Deech.

There is a rumour that a clause to address this may be tabled as an amendment to the Equalities Act, which is about to start in the Lords. Quite right too. I've been boring people about this anomoly for years.

Mark Valladares said...


Well, as one of the very few people directly impacted by such a proposal (I recently had the good fortune to marry a baroness), I cannot tell you how unimportant the debate is (it is funny). My friends refer to me as the Honourable Cllr Lady Mark, and I'm just as amused by it as anyone.

It is amazing though, just how many people assume that I get a title because my wife is a baroness. If I thought for one moment that there might be a serious debate on the subject, I'd be the first to offer something more important for debate...

Random said...

The simplest answer for Lady T is that, as she's presumably a working peer, she should simply refrain from using her title when she's not on official business so she'd book into a hotel or whatever with her husband as Mr and Mrs T. But then I suspect she wouldn't get so many free upgrades or find it so easy to get into fancy restaurants without a reservation. nobody's forcing her to use the title after all - it's presumably her decision, so she should take the consequences. This is Britain after all, this anomaly has lasted hundreds of years now and we've always managed to cope without civilisation collapsing.

talwin said...

Given the frequency of cohabitation, civil partnerships, divorce, re-marriage, celebrities (and others) retaining their family or chosen names, nowadays different names are common-place between partners and, of course, children.

There isn't a 'dilemma' for Baroness Trumpington or anyone else. Although I suppose the 'do-you-know-who-I-am?' brigade might disagree.

Anonymous said...

Just remove the privilege from wives. Then everyone's equal.

Unknown said...

How about we get rid of the second chamber, and have a unicameral parliament? OK for Greece (not the best example perhaps!), or Israel. Aren't Norway and Switzerland both unicameral? (I think).

Particularly as the 'Lords' seem to be so offended by the proposal of a £200/day attendance allowance. I find it rather offensive too, perhaps for rather different reasons to their Lordships.

Lord Blagger said...

Here is an interesting little calculation

1. 121 million a year for the Lords
2. 150 days a year debating
3. 8 Hours a day
4. 60 minutes in an hour.

1,680 pounds a minute.

Are they worth it?

Unknown said...

100% sortition in my dream world, but at least 100% elected, and therefore no need for a title for partners.

Lord Blagger said...

If you believe in referenda then why do we need the Lords?

1. Parliament agrees the bill.
2. The Lords revise it
3. The electorate approves it.

Why not cut out the middle man?


Lord Blagger said...

In as for you intent.

You were taking the piss out of Cowell for suggesting the the public might get to decide on an issue or issues.

Why shouldn't people read that as doing likewise for referenda?

Letting the little people decide as to what gets to be law.

So what are your plans for giving the right to decide on issues to the public?


Iain Dale said...

Jesus wept, why do you attack people who agree with you. The Cowell things was a joke. Funny. Clearly you don't possess a sense of humour.

I was a leading supporter of the Our Say campaign on direct democracy. Were you?

Unknown said...


It is hard enough to get proper scrutiny of bills with two houses.


Having the public vote on every bill apart from the technical problems, think of postal vote fraud times a thousand, there are the problems of ignorance and concequences.

In Athens a well informed citizenship voted on issues knowing if they got it wrong they would be the ones standing in the front row of the phalanx.

We cannot claim that we have a well educated electorate especially where more specialised issues are being considered, and the biggest stake many of them have in the state is collecting benefits.

Lord Blagger said...

Having the public vote on every bill apart from the technical problems, think of postal vote fraud times a thousand, there are the problems of ignorance and concequences.

Nope, that's why I've said that it should be voting by proxy.

It is then down to an MP to offer a secure system for allowing the public to vote through them.

If its possible to set up online banking, its not a problem to set up online voting in this way.

1. An email back of every vote cast.

2. Ability to change your mind up to the dead line.

3. If the MP casting the proxy implements a bad system, then people will move their proxy vote to another MP.

4. Do you think you can get a reasonable secure system for less than 600 million? That is the cost of the Lords over 5 years if you ignore the cost of borrowing the money to run them

5. To put that in context, the cost of running the electoral register is lower.

However, lets look at the fraud that could be possible.

1. Registering to vote a phantom voter. Certainly. Can it, or does it happen now? Yes. So no difference.

2. Changing a proxy to another MP.

Certainly that would be the case. However, its effectively the same fraud as the current one of registering a vote in a marginal.

However, there is an inbuilt catch. If you move the proxy, and the proxy is already online with one of the existing MPs, then they will send you an email saying sorry to see you leave. If it wasn't you, then you've caught the fraud early. The flaw with the existing system is postal registration. Here one person can submit multiple applications and the state can't tell because they aren't seen in person.

3. Fraud by MPs. They could not cast your vote as you ask them to. Bit like walking off with all those expenses. For that reason I would like a third party to run the voting part. Open code, for review. There would be many that would look at the system and with that flaws can be removed. However, look at it compared to the existing system. It's a comparison after all. The current system has the flaw that MPs say they will do X and don't. They then implement Y and they didn't tell you about Y at all.

Referenda to decide fix that.

4. I'm surprised no one has raise the hanging issue yet. ie. The public might vote for something nasty.

For a start, it hasn't stopped MPs removing presumption of innocence, right to a trial by jury, conviction without trial, conviction where you can't see the evidence, retrospect legalisation of fraud for Lords, retrospective taxation. What I've proposed is MPs write the law. They can't have it unless they get public approval. I'd rather have an error by the public than myriads of errors by MPs.

What's ignorance got to do with it to? By voting on party lines, MPs are showing their ignorance. They haven't considered what's in the bill, or there would be more failed bills. At least with the public they get the choice. If a member of the public felt so out of their depth they could nominate a proxy who votes as they see fit. St Vince Cable for example. I suspect he would gather quite a few proxies. Certainly an ignorant use of a proxy if you ask me. He's quite dangerous. However, not my choice, its the voter.

What else does it do? Everyone has an equal vote. No quangos deciding on the law.

Europe. Referenda? In built. New EU law? It's democratic. The EU has to ask the electorate. They would have a hissy fit, but that's the voters for you


Unknown said...

Would MPs with a proxy vote independantly of the party whips?

Who would be the third party running the voting? Who would appoint them would they be a type of quango. I cannot imagine that they would be cheep. As I said above it costs too much such never be a reason for rejecting a system of governance.

MPs are not universally honest. And are not always too clever (unfortunatly the ones that come up through the unions are poor Prescot Ainsworth..)

They are still smarter than average voter.

What we need is a way for the parties to get better candidates.

Lord Blagger said...

Well, don't forget that your proxy isn't necessarily the same as your representative.

I would see MPs offering the following service as proxies.

1. I will vote according to my conscience.

2. I will vote according to my party whip

3. I will vote as you tell me (website). This may well include a service that allows you to vote on party lines.

Now if a proxy does the opposite, what would you do? Answer, I would change proxies to one that would behave, and I would do it quickly.

Would it be cheap? Or really what is the cost compared to the current set up is perhaps the more accurate question.

The current set up costs 2.50 to register to vote, per year, per voter. 46 million voters. 115 million. There would be an increase here because there would need to be an extra field to cope with the nomination of your proxy. However, its not a large increase in the cost. Lets say 20p for the field? Round it up and that is 10 million.

Cost of running the voting service is not down to the taxpayer. It's if an MP or someone wants to provide such a service. This is the sort of thing that MySociety who produce all those government related websites would be interest in. I'm reasonably certain that it can be funded without recourse to public funds. I would pay to get such a right.


Unknown said...


We should not worry too much about the direct costs. We can lose a lot more from inefficient rule than by having to spend a few more shillings in wages and expenses.

How would we stop this becoming like the old trade union block voting syatem.

Would a proxy have one vote cast on the balance of those he was acting as a proxy for. five million for and ten against would count as one vote for. In which case he would be canceled out with an other proxy with 200 votes for and 201 against, even though the total would be five million and 200 for to 211 against.

Or would the vote of each proxee count?

Lord Blagger said...

If a proxy had 200,000 proxy votes, he would cast 200,000 votes. If he was casting on behalf of a voter he can cast 110,000 for 90,000 against.

He's a proxy.

It does have some block votes, but remember if you proxy has agreed to vote according to your wish, they are morally obliged to.

Unlike the block vote you can change your proxy if they piss you off.

So if a bill gets passed by MPs, it goes to a referenda by proxy vote in 2-3 months.

Most of the difficulties relate to difficulties that the current system has.

1. What to do with proxies that lose their seat or die?

2. Fraud. As I see it there are advantages in having online voting because you can be told about any changes to your proxy. You can split the registration from the casting of votes.

However, it solves so many of the current problems with politics that its such a win. The exception is if you are a politician or wanttobe politician. They won't like being servants and not masters.

For opposition MPs, its a better deal. You're more likely to have influence.