Election fever

Forget Heywood and Middleton. Forget Clacton. The most entertaining by-election under way at the moment is for one of the seats reserved in the House of Lords for an elected hereditary peer.

The contest follows the death, in July, of Lord Methuen, a Lib Dem. And under the compromise struck in 1998 to facilitate the removal of most hereditary peers from the Lords, 92 remain, and their numbers are replenished in slightly bizarre by-elections where current peers vote for candidates drawn from the hereditary peerage.

There are 15 candidates this time around, including at least two of prime ministerial descent in the shapes of the earls of Stockton and of Oxford and Asquith.

Some of the pitches to the noble electorate make, er, interesting reading.

The result is due on 22 October and with candidates of several political affiliations in the running, it will be interesting to see if peers stick to the loose agreement "the Carter Convention", under which a replacement hereditary peer is expected to be of the same party as their predecessor.

If not, all kinds of party games could follow at later elections.