World: Noblesse Obliged

When his father's death made him a viscount in 1960, a popular, promising Labor M.P. named Anthony Wedgwood Benn rocked the Debrett set by declaring vehemently that he wanted no part of the peerage. Reason: lords, lunatics, criminals and minors are barred from sitting in the House of Commons, where political careers are made and most Cabinet ministers chosen.

"Wedgy" Benn. then 35. refused to become Lord Stansgate and take his seat in the House of Lords, the largely ceremonial upper house that has been called "the last infirmary of noble minds." Instead, Mister Wedgwood Benn, as he insisted on calling himself,...

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