Monday, 2 November 2009

John Bright MP

Just over 151 years ago (October 27th 1858) the new MP for Birmingham , John Bright made his first speech in a campaign for parliamentary reform. He sought to reduce “the fabric of privilege” by campaigning for the vote for all working men.

As G.M. Trevelyan noted: “That great audience swayed, like a cornfield beneath the wind, under the gusts of cheering and laughter that shook them as he spoke... And the magic that swayed them was not some hard appeal to the lower part of their nature, but drew its compelling virtue from the simplest invocation of moral principles in words which survive the speaker as part of the wealth of our mother tongue. No class ever had nobler teaching than the working men of this island during the years while Bright was their champion.”

Bright’s belief in political freedom and reform inspired both Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Chamberlain

Bill Cash, a Tory MP I agree with on hardly anything, save this, made these points (edited - I have removed the europhobic comments with which his comments are usually laden)

So if Bright were alive today what would he be fighting for? His absolute priority would be to restore respect and authority to the Commons. The man who coined the phrase “the Mother of Parliaments” believed that the most precious thing that a person possessed was the right to vote for the laws that governed him and his country. ...

Bright's first allegiance was to his conscience. He would have no truck with the modern whips system and the surrender of parliamentary business to the executive, nor the fixing of timetables to prevent debate....

... We need the spirit of John Bright to walk the corridors of Westminster again.