Born to lose

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"Late, but in earnest" may be the motto of the Ancram family, but "last, but in earnest" might be more fitting given the (ultimately) poor showing of Michael Ancram, son of the 12th Marquess of Lothian and heir to the marquesate, in the Tory leadership contest.

Lord Ancram was urged to run by Lord Cranborne, heir to the Marquess of Salisbury, which availed him little. Indeed this is, very possibly, the worst day for the aristocratic tendency in British politics since the 14th Earl of Home, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the last blue-blooded leader of the Conservative Party, lost the 1964 general election to the grammar school Mr Wilson. The next Tory leader may be the son of a Spanish asylum seeker, or of a single mother, or of a Nottingham shopkeeper or of a Spitfire pilot, but he will not be related to the Queen by marriage, or a scion of a family that lives in a castle.

Mr Ancram is a genial and perfectly decent man, with a well-known passion for folk guitar and the music of Buddy Holly, but it is not entirely clear, even at this point, what his candidature was actually for, "earnest" though it may have been. The "stop Portillo" candidate, some said. Well, he didn't.