FORMER Northern Rock chairman Lord Ridley has won a seat in the House of Lords and thwarted an attempt by a Tory MP disgraced in the expenses scandal to re-enter Parliament.
The newly elected peer, better known as science journalist and author Matt Ridley of Blagdon Hall near Cramlington, delivered a crushing blow to Lord Hailsham – formerly Douglas Hogg – to take up his new position in the House.
The election was Lord Hailsham’s first attempt at re-entering Parliament after he was caught trying to pay for his country estate’s moat to be drenched on expenses while a Commons MP.
The pair were both running in a by-election for a hereditary seat to replace the late Earl Ferrers of Norfolk, who died in November.
Under the alternative vote system, Lord Ridley, who was chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007 and resigned over its collapse, finished first with 24 votes, Lord Hailsham second with 11 votes and the Earl of Harrowby third with eight votes.
Of the 27 candidates, 11 won no votes at all, while Lord Ridley won 14 first preference votes, eventually winning on the 13th transfer of votes.
Lord Ridley is the nephew of the late Tory Cabinet minister Nicholas Ridley who served under Margaret Thatcher and inherited his title following the death of his father, the 4th Viscount Ridley, in March 2012.
He returned to the North East to take on the running of the family estate several years before his father, also a Conservative politician, died aged 86.
The former science editor of the Economist and author of six books is entitled to run for a seat in the Lords and is on the register of hereditary peers. However he has had to wait for a position to become available.
Constitutional reform carried out in 1999 allows members of the same party – in the this case the Conservatives – to stand in a by-election for a free seat.
The father of two is married to the neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert and is also known for his controversial views on climate change.
He has primarily focused on his career as a science writer since leaving Northern Rock, an episode he once described to the Journal as a ‘catastrophic black mark’ on his CV.
He is also a founding chairman of the International Centre for Life in Newcastle.
His rival for the seat, culture minister Lord Hailsham, decided not to stand again for this seat in the 2010 General Election.
He argued he had not actually claimed for the £2,200 bill for clearing the moat at his estate.
However, he subsequently agreed to pay back the money after accepting that it had not been ’positively excluded’ from paperwork..
He had been MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham since 1997 and before that had represented Grantham since 1979.