Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Monday, 20 February 2006

What Preston's ancestor did as PM

Preston
Preston: from the BB house to Number 10?
Earlier this year Respect MP George Galloway entered the Celebrity Big Brother house with the express intention of making his views known to a younger audience who might not normally be that interested in Westminster politics.

The jury is still out on whether he succeeded in raising political interest - he certainly failed to win over the younger contestants.

These included Preston, whom he called a "plutocrat" for eating cream cakes, smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne during a task.

But it now turns out Preston, lead singer of The Ordinary Boys, has a political claim to fame himself.

It has emerged that he is the great-great-great-great grandson of the reforming 19th Century prime minister Earl Grey.

So, should Preston ever decide to follow suit and enter politics, what does he have to live up to?

Here is our brief guide to his ancestor Earl Grey, who was prime minister from 1830 to 1834:

Great Reform Act

Earl Grey, a Whig, played a central role in the passing of the Great Reform Act.

For years, pressure to increase the number of people allowed to vote had been growing, but had not yet translated into government action.

Campaigners were concerned at the continuation of "rotten boroughs", such as Old Sarum in Wiltshire. These were places with very few voters, which MPs could effectively "buy". And some fast-growing northern cities had hardly any representation in Parliament.

Introduced in March 1831, the Reform Bill was backed by the Commons, but was thrown out by the House of Lords.

Parliament was dissolved and the general election was fought on the single issue of the Bill - an unprecedented event in British political history.

Earl Grey's Whigs won and the House of Commons passed it, but the House of Lords (with a majority of Tories) threw it out, causing riots and civil disobedience across the country.

With the memory of France's bloody revolution still fresh, King William IV eventually agreed to create 50 Whig peers to redress the balance in the Lords if the bill was rejected again.

Slavery abolished

The Lords conceded and the Act was finally passed into law in 1832.

It extended the vote to 7% of the adult male population, based on a series of lowered property-owning qualifications.

The Act also abolished 56 rotten boroughs and removed one MP from boroughs with fewer than 4,000 inhabitants

Earl Grey was also prime minister in 1833, when slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire.

But, after all his efforts, he is principally remembered for giving his name to a fragrant blend of tea.

He reputedly received a gift of tea flavoured with bergamot oil, which later became known as Earl Grey.

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