‘Downton Abbey’ peer in the running for House of Lords seat

The real-life owner of Downton Abbey is in the running for a place in the House of Lords under a controversial election system.

George Herbert, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, is one of 16 hereditary peers vying for a seat-for-life created by the death of Lord Skelmersdale.

The 62-year-old earl’s country home, Highclere Castle in Hampshire, doubled for Downton Abbey in the hit ITV period drama from 2011 to 2015, and will feature again in the film due to be released in 2019.

Highclere Castle – Berkshire
Highclere Castle in Hampshire doubled for Downton Abbey in the hit TV period drama (Steve Parsons/PA)

In a short election pitch published by the House of Lords, the Tory peer said: “My contribution to debates and committees in the House of Lords would be based on my wide experience of small business, farming, tourism and countryside/heritage matters in running and developing Highclere Estate.

“Also I have been an investor in and worked in small software and technology companies.

“We have an international outlook to the world at Highclere via our online presence and, using our IP & Trade Marks, are developing new products for the US & global markets.”

Ten Conservatives, five crossbenchers and one unaffiliated Lord will contest the election on January 22.

Under rules created when the Lords was reformed by the Tony Blair government two decades ago, just 92 hereditary peers remain in the Upper Chamber.

When one retires or dies there is an election in which only the other hereditary peers can vote, which has prompted calls for reform of the system.

The polls, branded “ludicrous and indefensible” by critics, each cost the taxpayer more than £1,140 to run.

In November, the aristocrat son of former foreign secretary Lord Carrington secured a seat after receiving just 14 votes.

He was chosen from an all-male list of 11 candidates in a poll where a total of 29 ballots were cast, with Lord Ravensdale second with nine votes.

Those running against the Earl of Carnarvon include the Earl of Effingham, a retired naval commander and former president of the Royal British Legion, and Lord Biddulph, whose election statement simple says: “Always willing to serve.”

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