After the last Olympics I wrote a post about family traditions in sport -- quickly counting up how many of our medal winners had parents in the athletics/cycling/rowing business. I now discover that the House of Commons do the same exercise for MPs, much more efficiently, checking out their family histories. There was one survey in 2008 and another earlier this year. The first one covers just one generational links, plus husbands and wives. The most recent one (though excluding "in-laws") goes four generations back -- from which we discover that David Cameron is the great grandson of Sir William Mount (Con. Newbury 1900-1906, 1910-1922), that William Cash is the great grandson of the cousin of John Bright (Lib. Durham 1843-1847, Manchester 1847-1857, Birmingham 1857-1889), or that Harriet Harman is the great great niece of Joseph Chamberlain (Lib etc, Birmingham 1876-1885, Birmingham West 1885-1914).
If you just stick to sons and daughters, the figures are pretty much identical in 2008 and 2014. Counting one stepson, there were 21 MPS who were the children of MPs in 2014, and 20 in 2008. They were pretty well balanced between Tory and Labour in 2008, tilted towards Tory in 2014 (14 plus 1 DUP, as against 6 Labour). There were four daughters in 2008, just 2 in 2014.
And there's no sign of the pattern changing, with Blair, Kinnock and Straw junior all said to be seeking parliamentary seats -- and there's no doubt more. And the USA, of course, have the families Bush and Clinton.
The more distant relatives intensify the picture. If you add in the grandchildren and great nephews/nieces etc, you get to 39 close relations in the House of Commons succession in 2014 -- or over 6%.
How come? And do we mind?
Well, I dont think we should mind about the husbands and wives -- who are also included in the calculations. Presumably people with similar political interests tend to get it together.
But I feel a bit torn about the succession rate of children and grandchildren. On the one hand, you can see a serious argument which says that there is a privileged political class in operation here -- a de facto aristocracy of political power. Take someone like Hilary Benn: son, grandson and great grandson (twice) of MPs. It does look much like a political silver spoon.
On the other hand, it may be much less sinister, and an almost inevitable spin off of family life. Just like those sports kids probably came home and got a real pat on the back for coming first in the sprint, so these political juniors probably got much more parental attention by chipping in with a clever remark about the budget than they did by achieving a record discus throw. Perhaps, in other words, it's all a bit more innocent.
And on reflection, it's probably not all that different in the Academy either. The Toynbees and the Darwins are academic dynasties on the scale of the Benns. And there are plenty of classical children in my particular neck of the woods -- Dorothy Thompson the daughter of Frank Walbank, Mark Griffith in Berkeley the son of ancient historian Guy Griffith, and there's no doubt plenty more.
And if I'm honest, when my kids came home from school, I was probably better pleased if they had got an A for a project, than if they had won the running cup. I would have tried to conceal it, but they would have noticed.
And what are they doing now? PhDs!