My father had a friend called Noel Mobbs, who was given a knighthood just after the last war for his support of boys’ clubs. At a lunch in his honour he was describing the scene when he went to
. “The King said to me: ‘Mobbs, for what you’ve done you deserve a peerage’ and I said to him ‘that’s up to you your Majesty’.
Let me say without qualification that there’s no honour I would sooner have received that the Blomfield award, established in memory of Sara Louisa Ryan, Lady Blomfield, one of the most remarkable women born in the second half of the 19th century. Its difficult for us to imagine the enormous wall of prejudice and discrimination that women of that era had to surmount if they were to do anything at all outside the domestic sphere. Barred from the universities and the professions, business and Parliament, and treated as the chattels of their husbands in English law, it’s a miracle that a few women did get to play a role in public life. Lady Blomfield’s contribution spanned among other causes the women’s suffrage movement, the liberation of
And that brings me to the second reason why I am proud to be the recipient of this award. I have long been an admirer of the Baha’is, and of the principles that guide them. Tomorrow I’m initiating a debate in the Lords on the Government’s revised alcohol harm reduction strategy. The Government always preface their statements on alcohol harm by pointing out that 90% of the adult population drink alcohol, most of them sensibly. But millions of people – men, women and children – are drinking hazardous or harmful amounts, and there is never any attempt to highlight the 10% who don’t drink, like the Baha’is. I intend to emphasise that an alcohol-free lifestyle can be exciting and fulfilling.
The Baha’is. Work hard for the equality of women, human rights and particularly the rights of children, religious freedom and the promotion of international cooperation through the United Nations, in which they continue to play an important role as they did in the
When I first entered the Commons 45 years ago, I wanted to make some contribution to human rights, and joined the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group, which was concerned with domestic human rights here in the
If you look at the volume of human rights-related questions and debates in both Houses over a number of years, you will see a huge increase. That may be partly to do with the proliferation of human rights NGOs, but it is actually a two-way process. The NGOs need to have organised all-party groups of MPs with whom they can interact, and apart from the PHRG itself, there has been a great expansion of thematic and country-related All-Party Groups in recent years – subjects ranging from AIDS to zoos, and countries from
Oddly enough, there isn’t a Group in Parliament or an NGO covering religious freedom in general. Often there are lessons to be learned from comparisons between the kinds of religious persecution that occur in different countries. The recent atrocities committed against the Buddhist monks in
Yesterday Ming Campbell said it was time for him to leave the stage, though it seemed to me he was shoved off it by ageist scribblers and cartoonists in the media. Ming has as sharp an intellect as ever, and I hope there will be other important roles for him to play. People are living longer nowadays and there in no reason to retire either from the stage or politics when you still have something to offer. I remember running into Manny Shinwell in the peers’ entrance when he was 100 and mentioning an article about him in that morning’s Express. He asked me eagerly ‘What did it say’ I said the gist was that he was the oldest peer ever to have spoken in the House ‘Is that all they could find to say about me?’ was his dismissive comment..
Well, I don’t expect to break that record, but my ambition is to carry on, as Lady Blomfield did, as long as my health lasts, and nothing could have made that intention firmer than receiving the Lady Blomfield award.