No loss

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The Independent Online

By any standards, 500 years is a long time for one family to enjoy a position of privilege in the governance of a nation. So anyone with a democratic fibre in their body should be pleased that the Cecil family is ending its long association with the House of Lords. Viscount Cranborne says that he is leaving the upper house because he believes its new rules about declaring interests are too onerous.

We are inevitably reminded of the remarks the Viscount made when he was removed as shadow leader of the Lords by William Hague for going behind his back to strike a deal on Lords reform with Tony Blair. Not only did the Viscount say, "I was sacked for running in like an ill-trained spaniel", but he also said rather loftily that "the House of Lords must come first in my loyalties" . Now we find that supposedly overriding duty forgotten when the Viscount has to reveal how much he's worth, even though it is no secret that his family is extremely wealthy.

As the great Victorian constitutionalist Walter Bagehot so famously said, the cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it. It is still not a pretty sight.