Friday, December 23, 2005

A fight in the House of Commons

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

Picking a fight

On 27 July 1893 the debate on the committee stage of Gladstone’s second home rule bill ended. Joe Chamberlain compared Gladstone to Herod. T. P. O’Connor, the Irish Nationalist who sat for a Liverpool constituency, called Chamberlain “Judas”. The division bell rang, but arguments still smouldered in the chamber.

At this point one of my political heroes entered history. J. W. “Paddy” Logan was Liberal MP for Harborough. A major railway contractor, he began as a Conservative. But when he visited Ireland he was so shocked at the condition of the people that he returned a Radical.

Logan had won Harborough from the Tories at a by-election in 1891 and held it until he resigned in 1904, his health affected by a hunting accident. He returned at the second general election of 1910, only to resign again six years later.

Nationally, he was known as a sportsman. He won the House of Commons steeplechase and founded the most celebrated bloodstock line in pigeon racing. Locally, he gave Market Harborough its swimming baths and donated land for the town cricket ground.

He lived at the village of East Langton, where he gave another cricket ground and a village hall. He also maintained a cottage home for the children of men killed on his works.

On the night of 27 July, as he waited for the throng to clear, Logan crossed the chamber and sat down truculently beside Carson on the Conservative front bench. Hayes Fisher, a Tory MP, pushed him away. Logan elbowed back and was grabbed by more Tories, whereupon the Irish Nationalists waded in to support him.

For the next 20 minutes elderly, frock-coated MPs belaboured one another. Hats were flattened, coats torn and faces bruised. Onlookers in the galleries began to hiss and eventually the Serjeant-at-Arms restored order.

Today, Logan is remembered in street names in Market Harborough and by the dedication stone from his swimming baths, which can be found outside the new leisure centre. And, of course, Market Harborough Logan Ward returns two Liberal Democrat councillors.

If Logan were around today, witnessing the events of the past fortnight, I feel sure he would say: “Start a fight by all means, but make sure it is with someone in another party.”

1 comment:

Ray Millward said...

Can anyone shed any light on the hunting accident? - My Great Grandfather was killed in a hunting (Shotgun) accident involving Paddy Logan.
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