Saturday, December 12, 2015

What's in a name? Or a title ...

There are two current members of the House of Lords, both of whom earned their peerages through political and public service to the Conservative party but a decade or more apart, who have the surname of Feldman and incorporated this in their title.

I was amused to discover by chance today that virtually every newspaper and TV news report I have read in the past few years about the present Chairman of the Conservative Party has mistakenly used a form of words which, strictly speaking, refers to someone else.

All the opinion pieces calling on "Lord Feldman" to resign have been technically calling for the resignation of Lord Basil Feldman, which is a bit out of date, since he finished his term as Chairman of the Conservative National Union Executive Committee nearly a quarter of a century ago. (That post roughly corresponds to the present position of Chairman of the National Conservative Convention, in which Emma Pidding, now Baroness Pidding, was recently succeeded by Rob Semple.)

For an explanation of the way titles work in this matter I am indebted to the Lords of the blog site by Lord Norton of Louth, who has been described in "The House" magazine as the greatest living expert on parliament, and was himself affected by this as there was already a Lord Norton when he was raised to the peerage. In this situation if the new peer wants to keep the surname he or she has to add a territorial suffix. Hence the "of Louth" part of his title.

As Lord Norton of Louth explains, a reference to "Lord Feldman" without any territorial suffix should be a reference to Basil, Baron Feldman. If you want to refer to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman, by his title, you should refer to "Lord Feldman of Elstree."

In some cases where a second peer has adopted a similar title distinguished by such a suffix, the holder of the older title has been known to be a little sensitive about potential confusion between the two. It has even been known for him or her to deliver a blistering set-down on the subject to anyone who refers to either in an incorrect or confusing way. I think some of those who have inadvertently called on Lord Basil Feldman to resign have been quite fortunate that he appears to be a little more relaxed about such mistakes than some other members of the upper house have been about similar errors ...

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