Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tony Banks, Baron Stratford?

Former West Ham MP Tony Banks is going to become a member of the House of Lords, becoming just the latest left-wing extremist to end up as a member of that bastion of privilege. He's also generating some interest over his choice of title.

Traditionally most peerage titles are named after places, but in recent years there has been a trend towards using surnames. There have been the bizarre combination of first and surnames such as "Lord Alanbrooke" and "Lord George-Brown" - one has to wonder if the latter was referred to casually as "George George-Brown". Indeed some actually changed their surname to overcome the opposition to this. (There are also those peers who insist on calling themselves Lord/Lady Firstname Surname - Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, not Baroness Helena Kennedy, is one of the most prominent.)

Tony Banks has decided to go for a place name in his title instead. The obvious place would be his constituency, but "Lord West Ham" might be rather awkward for a Chelsea supporter. "Lord Newham" would have been appropriate since there is a distinct Newham identity. But he's chosen to be "Lord Stratford". I'm surprised he wants to be reminded of where his constituency office was - on announcing his retirement from the Commons he said he found constituency work "intellectually numbing, and tedious in the extreme". Given Banks' ability to draw attention to his latest rubbish outburts, no doubt the people of Stratford will too. I feel lucky that I live in Forest Gate (next door).

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