We all have views that jump to mind when we speak of politicians – they are some of the least trusted of professions. It’s easy to be cynical when power is on the table, so to speak.
The Telegraph mentions in his obituary that
He was… a skilled parliamentarian, with no ambition for office, who used parliamentary question time, backbench motions and the private members’ bill procedure to great effect.
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‘with no ambition for office’ – just dwell on that for a while as we consider the nature of politics today.
During his time as an MP he pushed through more Private Members’ Bills in his 30 years in the House of Commons than any other parliamentarian.
He will be best remembered perhaps, for sponsoring the 1967 Sexual Offences Bill which decriminalised homosexuality in the UK (edit: Aethelread points out in the comments ‘One minor point though – the 1967 Act only decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales, not the UK as a whole. It wasn’t decriminalised in Scotland until 1981, and in Northern Ireland until 1983.’ – sorry, Scotland and NI..)
He featured heavily in promoting the liberalisation of divorce laws and sponsored the 1975 Children’s Act.
Policies, for Abse, cannot be disengaged from the policy-makers. The drives and psychological needs of the politicians invade and distort the panaceas they offer to the electorates. If more objective assessments are to be made of policies, assessments must be made of the men and women who expound them. Abse himself deserved to be remembered as one of the most significant social reformers of 20th-century Britain
Lots of words and lots of history. It’s rare to see a politician so universally praised though.
I wonder if we will see a similar type of politician emerge again – one who is not a slave to the party line. We need more like him, I’d say.
‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!’
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)