Friday, April 21, 2006

A distant cousin of the Duchess of Cornwall

This week's House Points from Lib Dem News. Regular readers of this blog may notice a lot of familiar material - from here, here and here, to be precise. Well, it was Easter and I had an article to write for the Guardian.

Headline to come

Last week, I hope you will recall, House Points looked at the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. This is the sinister plan to give government powers to amend legislation without going back to the Commons.

Just after I sent that column off, the minister in charge of the bill, Jim Murphy, conceded many of its critics' points. While I am always pleased to see the government coming to its senses, it would make life easier if they could arrange to do it on Mondays.

Something similar had happened the week before. That column was about the depredations of badgers in Southend West. I treated the subject lightly, perhaps because the local MP was involved. If David Amess announced the Apocalypse was imminent, you would have to stifle your giggles.

But the situation is more serious than I thought. After that column was written, reports emerged of a car being broken into in Westcliff. It belonged to the Labour constituency secretary and several completed nomination papers were stolen. The result is that five Southend wards have no Labour candidate.

I think we know who was to blame. We can live with badgers digging up people's gardens. When they start threatening the democratic process, it is time to act.

* * * *

Finally, a little Liberal history. In November 2000 Judith Keppel became the first person to win a million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? She was already granddaughter of the ninth Earl of Albermarle; great-granddaughter of Alice Keppel, the mistress of the Prince of Wales (who became Edward VII); and a distant cousin of the Duchess of Cornwall.

But she was not the first aristocrat to win a big cash prize on British television. For the hit quiz of the 1950s was The $64,000 Question (that's inflation for you). And in 1957 Lady Cynthia Asquith won the top prize.

Lady Cynthia was the wife of Herbert "Beb" Asquith, the son of the Liberal prime minister H. H. Asquith. She answered questions on Jane Austen, the first being "Where did Fanny Price's cousin Edmund Bertram find her crying?"

Perhaps I am making too much of this, but with the single exception of the Torrington by-election, that quiz is the only thing the Liberals won in the 1950s.

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