From a previous post, there seems to be confusion about how to address The Right Honourable, Christopher Walter Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. He is an hereditary peer and entitled to be called “Lord Monckton”.
As a Viscount, he ranks above all life peers (who are always appointed as Barons). The run from top to bottom of the peerage is Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron.
Since the enactment of the House of Lords Act 1999, the British Upper House comprises principally life peers and the Lords Spiritual (26 of them) and 88 elected hereditary peers. As at 1 February 2013, there were 760 members of the House of Lords: 647 Life Peers, 25 Lords Spiritual and 88 hereditary peers. There are more than 700 hereditary peers, so only a small proportion now sit in the House of Lords.
Life peers can be created without much thought (there was a modicum of constraint about creating new hereditary peers because it would be resisted by existing peers as diluting their influence and status as members of the nobility).
In the past, public servants (such as Sir Humphrey) could aspire to awards and knighthoods ranging from CMG (Call me God) to KCMG (Kindly Call Me God) to GCMG (God Calls Me God).
But now Prime Ministers can shower awards – since the Life Peerages Act 1958 was enacted, there have been 1232 Life Peers created. Tony Blair created 357 of those; David Cameron 122.
Nicholas Stern became Lord Stern, Baron Stern of Brentford, in 2007, for his fictional report modestly titled The Stern Review. And how does this man revel in his titles (including Professor at LSE)! He insists on being called “Your Lordship” in private, as I discovered in 2008.
The left always have a love of grandiose titles and awards (such as claiming a Nobel Prize for working at the IPCC). So I find it amusing that Monckton is getting a slam for using his title – has anyone criticised Stern and the others?
Anyhow, the present situation in the House of Lords is most unsatisfactory. The Queen (on the advice of the Prime Minister) can appoint life peers who then sit in the House of Lords. It is even worse than appointing Senators for a fixed term – these people live off the public teat (sitting fees etc) for the rest of their lives.
Fortunately the Cameron government is moving to further reform the House of Lords, with up to 80 per cent being elected (ideally the chamber should be 100 per cent elected).
As for peerages, it seems to me two sensible options for the 21st century:
- declare that peerages will die with the current holder, including hereditary peerages, with no new appointees; or
- ennoble every holder of a British passport as an hereditary Duke. In a splendid ceremony, the Queen announces that all of her people are noble and wonderful. The UK would be a nation of Lords. Lord Monckton would be promoted to Duke, as would everyone else.