Tony Banks, Baron Stratford

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Stratford
Tony Banks, Baron Stratford.jpg
Minister for Sport
In office
2 May 1997 – 20 October 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Iain Sproat
Succeeded by Kate Hoey
Member of Parliament
for West Ham
In office
1 May 1997 – 5 May 2005
Preceded by Constituency Established
Succeeded by Lyn Brown
Member of Parliament
for Newham North West
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Arthur Lewis
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Personal details
Born Anthony Louis Banks
(1942-04-08)8 April 1942
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Died 8 January 2006(2006-01-08) (aged 63)
Fort Myers, Florida, US
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of York
London School of Economics
Occupation Politician

Anthony Louis Banks, Baron Stratford (8 April 1942[1][2] – 8 January 2006) was a British Labour Party politician, who was a member of parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2005, before being made a Member of the House of Lords. In government, he served for two years as Minister for Sport. He was well known in the House of Commons for his acid tongue.[3]

Career[edit]

Banks was born at Jubilee Maternity Hospital, Belfast, the only son and elder child of Albert Herbert Banks, a sergeant in the Royal Army Service Corps, who before the Second World War had been a toolmaker, and his wife, Olive Irene (Rene), née Rusca. The family returned to England after the birth and he grew up in Brixton and Tooting. He was educated in London at St. John's School, Brixton, Tenison's School in Kennington, the University of York and the London School of Economics.

Banks worked as an assistant general secretary for The Association of Broadcasting Staff union, which represented staff in the BBC and other broadcasting organisations. It later merged with other unions to form BECTU. For several years Banks was responsible for freelances.

In 1964 he unsuccessfully stood for the Liberal Party in the first elections to the new London Boroughs. He later joined the Labour Party, and during the 1970s and 1980s was a prominent Labour member of the Greater London Council, representing Hammersmith (1970–1977) and Tooting (1981–1986). He was chairman of the GLC from 1985 until its abolition in 1986. In 1983 he was elected Labour MP for Newham North West, which he represented for 14 years. He defeated his predecessor, Arthur Lewis, who had been deselected as Labour candidate. Following a 1995 boundary review, Newham North West was expanded and renamed West Ham for the 1997 election and Banks represented that seat until the 2005 election, when he stood down.

Ministerial post[edit]

After Labour's 1997 election victory Banks was appointed a minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, responsible for sport. During this time, he called for foreign players in the English Premiership to become eligible to play for England ("can you imagine seeing Cantona and Giggs swapping the Red of Manchester for the White of England?"). He also caused consternation by suggesting the football teams of the four constituent parts of the UK merge to compete in the Olympic Games.[4]

Among other ministerial responsibilities were listed buildings, and he approved controversial additions including the 1930s Three Magpies pub in Birmingham[5] and numerous redundant NHS buildings.[6] He was also responsible for Grade I listing the Severn Bridge.[7]

After two years in office, he stepped down to become the Prime Minister's envoy for England's failed bid to host the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The bid failed, Germany winning the nomination. From then until the 2005 general election he remained a backbencher, though he made a failed bid to become Labour's candidate in the 2004 election for Mayor of London.

Political views[edit]

A vegetarian, Tony Banks was one of Parliament's staunchest supporters of animal rights, often speaking against fox hunting and vivisection, and he was a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports. He was regarded as on the left of Labour, being staunchly republican, an opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group. His only speeches regarding the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan were to request government money and the help of the Royal Navy for the animals of the Kabul Zoo, particularly for Marjan, the elderly lion which needed air-conditioning for its rheumatism.

An example of Banks' pro-animal views surfaced, on 21 May 2004, when he proposed Early Day Motion EDM 1255 in the 2003–04 session of Parliament,[8] in response to newspaper reports revealing that MI5 had proposed using pigeons as flying bombs during World War II. The motion condemned the proposal, describing humans as "obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal", and proposed that the House "looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the Earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again". It was signed by only two other MPs, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, both left-wingers.

Banks was also a supporter of the arts, and chaired the House of Commons Works of Art Committee, which had responsibility for historic paintings and sculptures in the Palace of Westminster.

Outspoken behaviour[edit]

Banks was known for outspoken and often colourful comments. At the 1997 Labour Party conference, he described the Conservative leader William Hague as a "foetus", adding that Conservative MPs might be rethinking their views on abortion. In 1990, responding to a speech by Conservative MP Terry Dicks opposing government funding for the arts, Banks said Dicks was "living proof that a pig's bladder on a stick can get elected to Parliament". He described the obese Nicholas Soames as "a one-man food mountain". He also once, speaking in the House of Commons, used the word "bullshitters".

His comments were not always directed at parliamentary colleagues. Banks referred to Canadians as "dickheads" for culling seals.[9] The spokesman for the Inuit responded by describing Banks as "self-important and pompous with an over-inflated opinion of himself".[citation needed]

He was also seen crossing his fingers when he took the oath of allegiance to the Queen during a new session of Parliament, which also caused much comment. Banks was a republican, but insisted he was wishing himself luck in his new job as Minister for Sport.

He also, during a live debate on UK teatime chat show Richard & Judy, called for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to be banned, and declared that "Videogames are worse than child pornography".

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Sally Jones. Though MP for West Ham, he was a supporter of Chelsea F.C. and attended games with Conservative Party politician David Mellor, a fellow Chelsea fan, who, despite being a political opponent, was a close friend of Banks. He was also a friend of the Conservative MP Ian Gow, who was assassinated by the IRA in 1990.

Tony Banks was a member of the British Humanist Association.

Retirement[edit]

On 23 November 2004, he announced he would not stand at the next general election and that he would retire from the House of Commons. On 26 November, in an interview with Robin Oakley on Radio 4, he said "To be honest I found it intellectually numbing, and tedious in the extreme. I most certainly won't miss the constituency work. I've got to tell you that honestly. It's 22 years of the same cases, but just the faces and the people changing. It might sound a little disparaging to say this about people's lives and their problems and we did deal with them ... but I got no satisfaction from this at all. I really didn't. And all you were was a sort of high-powered social worker and perhaps not even a good one at that. I will miss being chairman of the works of art committee . . . because I was having so much intellectual enjoyment, and indeed just straightforward fun, out of reorganising our collection, and that kept me in touch with history."

On 24 March 2005 he made his final speech in the House of Commons. A week after the General Election, on 13 May 2005, it was announced he would be created a life peer, and on 23 June 2005 the peerage was gazetted as Baron Stratford, of Stratford in the London Borough of Newham[10] (Stratford being part of his former constituency).

Death[edit]

Banks's time as a member of the House of Lords was brief. On 7 January 2006, it was reported that he had collapsed two days earlier, suffering a "very serious stroke", while having lunch on Sanibel Island in Florida, where he was on holiday.[11] He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Fort Myers and died on 8 January without regaining consciousness.

Following her husband's death, Lady Stratford vowed to continue his animal rights work, leading a campaign against the culling of seal pups in Canada.[12] She is also a patron of the Captive Animals Protection Society, a charity campaigning for an end to the use of animals in circuses, zoos and exotic pet trade.[13]

- Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom[14]

In popular culture[edit]

American singer songwriter Aimee Mann became a close friend of Banks after meeting him in London the early 1990s and the song "You're With Stupid Now" on her 1995 album I'm with Stupid was inspired by their discussions of British politics.[15]

Arms[edit]

Arms of Tony Banks, Baron Stratford
Adopted
2006
Coronet
Coronet of a Baron
Crest
A Fox sejant Gules supporting with the dexter forepaw a Crozier Or
Escutcheon
Or three Chevronels each terminating in three finials bottony Gules and each limb ensigned by a Pigeon volant outwards Sable
Supporters
On either side a Badger sejant erect proper armed and grasping in the interior forefoot a Hammer Or
Motto
ALL IS DUST
Symbolism
The red chevronels on a gold field are taken from the Arms of the Borough of Newham. To these have been added three finials bottony suggesting a Saxon crown which features in the Arms of the Greater London Council. The chevronels can also be taken as an allusion to the London roofline and are accompanied by diving London pigeons. The Armorial Bearings of Newham also feature a crozier which has been combined with a fox in the Crest, Lord Stratford had a particular interest in Charles James Fox, the eighteenth century politician.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Birth certificate
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ BBC report on "wit and wisdom of Tony Banks", BBC News, 8 January 2006
  4. ^ Great Britain United, BBC News, 9 August 2000
  5. ^ Listed Buildings, Guardian Unlimited gallery
  6. ^ NHS hospital buildings now listed – Banks Department for Culture, Media and Sport press release, Distributed by PR Newswire, 14 November 1997
  7. ^ Severn Bridge and Aust Viaduct English Heritage Images of England, shows bridge was Grade I listed on 29 May 1998 during Banks's term in office
  8. ^ Early Day Motion 1255, Parliamentary Information Management Services
  9. ^ The wit and wisdom of Tony Banks, BBC News, 8 January 2006
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57687. p. 8379. 28 June 2005. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  11. ^ 'No hope of recovery' for Banks, BBC News, 8 January 2006
  12. ^ Canada Defends Seal Cull While World Calls for a Trade Boycott, The Independent, 19 March 2006; reproduced online by Common Dreams Newscenter
  13. ^ "Spotlight on CAPS' Patrons". Captive Animals' Protection Society. 
  14. ^ Tributes paid to ex-MP Tony Banks, BBC News, 9 January 2006
  15. ^ How we met; Aimee Mann and Tony Banks, The Independent, 5 May 1996

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Lewis
Member of Parliament for Newham North West
19831997
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for West Ham
19972005
Succeeded by
Lyn Brown
Political offices
Preceded by
Iain Sproat
Minister for Sport
1997–1999
Succeeded by
Kate Hoey