First televised speech in the UK Parliament

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The first televised speech in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom was made by Ian Gow, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Eastbourne, on 21 November 1989.

Until 1989, television cameras did not show proceedings in the House of Commons, although it had been discussed eight times between 1964 and 1989. In 1988 MPs backed an experiment with cameras in the chamber, and 1989 Commons proceedings were televised for the first time on 21 November. MPs agreed in 1990 to make the experiment permanent. Despite his opposition to the televising of Parliament, Ian Gow delivered the first speech to Parliament, although he was not the first MP to appear on camera in the chamber, as Bob Cryer, the MP for Bradford South raised a point of order before Gow spoke. Gow's speech was self-deprecating and raised a few laughs when he recalled a letter he and other members received, offering image consultancy sessions and advice on how to improve their image for television.

Ian Gow[edit]

Ian Gow (28 February 1938 – 30 July 1990) was a politician in Great Britain; before this, he was drafted for National Service from 1955 to 1958 and was commissioned in the 15th/19th Hussars and served in Northern Ireland, Germany and Malaya. He served until 1976 in the Territorial Army, where he achieved the rank of major.

In 1962 he took up a career in law and qualified as a solicitor in 1963 and became a partner in Joynson-Hicks and Co.[1] and became a Conservative Party activist. He suffered election defeats in 1964 in Coventry East and again in 1966 when he lost in Clapham.

Around this time, The Times accounted of his candidature in the following words "He is a bachelor solicitor, aged 29, wearing his public school manner as prominently as his rosette. Words such as "overpowering", "arrogant", and "bellicose" are used to describe him".[2] After the disappointment of Coventry East and Clapham, he continued the search for a seat and when the party de-selected incumbent Sir Charles Taylor, Gow got the place in Parliament he had worked for. Sir Charles had represented Eastbourne since 1935 and did not take kindly to Gow.[3]

Gow was finally elected in 1974 as the MP for Eastbourne, whom he served till 1990.

On 30 July 1990, Gow was murdered by the Provisional IRA as the result of a car bomb. He suffered massive injuries to his lower body and died 10 minutes after the explosion.

The speech[edit]

I beg to move, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:" "Most Gracious Sovereign," "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament." I am mindful of the honour done by my constituents through my being invited to make this speech. A year ago today, the Leader of the Opposition, quoting the admirable Mr. Colin Welch of the Daily Mail, described my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw)—who had just moved the motion—as a "roly-poly version of Dr. Bodkin Adams."—[Official Report. 22 November 1988; Vol. 142, c. 13.]" The House, and certainly my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), may think that that description applies rather better to me. I am sad to have to confirm that the good doctor is no longer with us—sad, because at each dissolution of Parliament he used to send a £5 note for my fighting fund.

I have always voted against the televising of the proceedings of this House, and I expect that I always will. The brief intervention earlier of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) did nothing to alter my view. Despite my strongly held opinions, a letter that I received —three weeks ago—I believe that a copy was sent to each of us and possibly even to you, Mr. Speaker—made the following preposterous assertion: "The impression you make on television depends mainly on your image (55 per cent.) with your voice and body language accounting for 38 per cent. of your impact. Only 7 per cent. depends on what you are actually saying.

The letter went on—and hon. Members may think that this is an extravagant claim so far as I am concerned: "We can guarantee to improve your appearance through a personal and confidential image consultation. You will learn if you need a new hair style—and where to get it—and the type of glasses to suit your face." The House will understand why I considered that I was beyond redemption on both counts.

Eastbourne has been a separate parliamentary constituency since 1885. Then the electorate was 8,000; today it is 80,000. I am glad to report that for 100 out of those 104 years Eastbourne has been represented in the Conservative interest. The solitary lapse took place in 1906, but four years of Liberal representation were more than enough and provoked the highest turnout ever 8 recorded—90.3 per cent.— at the following general election. Since then, Eastbourne has been true blue, and, since 1974, dry as well.

East Sussex has long attracted the retired and semi-retired. Lord Shawcross lives at Friston, the right hon. Member for Leeds East (Mr. Healey), whose decision not to seek re-election to this place we all deplore, is the squire of Alfriston and Lord Callaghan has his estate nearby. It will be a source of satisfaction to the Opposition, particularly to those who sit below the Gangway, as it is to me, to learn that those three comrades have been able to share in the growing prosperity of the nation created during the premiership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Prime Minister Thatcher).

Others have shared in that prosperity. Over these past years, 1,657 former tenants of our borough council have bought their houses or flats. They remember that the right-to-buy legislation was fiercely opposed by the Labour party. I was proud to have had a hand in extending the opportunities for home ownership in the Housing Act 1985.

Last month, phase two of our district general hospital was opened. All the medical wards have been transferred from St. Mary's hospital, which was built in Napoleonic days, to our new hospital. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that our hospital has informed my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health of its intention to seek approval to become a self-governing hospital trust within the National Health Service.

In August 1980, the House gave a Third Reading to the Eastbourne Harbour Bill. Indeed, 180 of my right hon. and hon. Friends stayed up until 6.10 am to vote for it. The House will want to know that construction work on the harbour project is well under way. Jobs are being created in the short and long term. The new harbour will keep Eastbourne in the vanguard—no, ahead of the vanguard—of Britain's increasingly important and increasingly successful tourist industry.

When the harbour is completed, our fishermen will no longer have to drag their craft on to the beach. There will be berths for 1,800 small boats. Miners from Bolsover, entrepreneurs from Newham, North-West, refugees from Brent, East, grocers from Old Bexley, intellectuals, real or imagined, from Chesham and Amersham and the hon. baronet the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), whose reported aspirations to become the Queen's first Minister I am unable to endorse—all these and many more besides—will be able to moor their boat or seek refuge from the storm in the new Eastbourne harbour.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr. Gow There is absolutely no way in which I shall give way to a member of the Liberal party.
I must leave the virtues of Eastbourne and turn to the merits of the Gracious Speech. I welcome the commitment to support the remarkable changes taking place in eastern Europe. Speaking in Poland last month, the German Chancellor said that Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Vienna—he made no mention of Leipzig—were as much a part of Europe as London, Brussels, Paris, Rome or Berlin. Dr. Kohl was echoing General de Gaulle's famous concept of a Europe des patries stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. It is a concept which I share. I am strongly in favour of the free movement of people, goods and capital within the 12 countries that make up the Community, but I have no confidence in the presumed superior wisdom of the Commission in Brussels as compared with the judgment, fallible though it is, of this elected House of Commons. Recent events in eastern Europe have reinforced that view. If we look forward to the day—as I do—when the whole European family can share in that freedom and democracy which we enjoy, the long-term enlargement of the Community is more likely to come about if the nation states of the Twelve do not succumb to the vaulting ambitions of the supranationalists.

I also welcome the commitment in the Gracious Speech to defeating terrorism in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Europe. We should send a message from this place, to friend and foe alike, that our resolve will never weaken, that those who choose the bullet and the bomb will gain no concessions from Her Majesty's Government, and that their campaign of terror is as odious as it is futile. Terrorism flourishes where those who perpetrate it believe that one day terror will triumph. That is why all of us need to give no hint that it ever will.

The Gracious Speech reaffirms the Government's commitment to pursue firm financial policies, designed to reduce inflation. It is of deep regret to me that inflation is now more than 7 per cent. High interest rates are not the only weapon to defeat inflation, but they are an essential weapon. I hope that the abatement of inflation until we secure our declared aim of stable prices will characterise the stewardship of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Yesterday the President of Romania made a speech in Bucharest which lasted for six hours and which was punctuated by 67 standing ovations—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker Order. It is customary to give a fair hearing to the hon. Member moving the motion for the Loyal Address.

Mr. Gow Yesterday the President of Romania made a speech in Bucharest which lasted for six hours and which was punctuated by 67 standing ovations. I am thankful that I was not asked to move a vote of thanks to him, but it has been an honour to have been asked to make this speech. It will be a matter of relief to the House to know that there is no precedent for the mover of the Loyal Address being asked to do so on a subsequent occasion.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary, The Times, 31 July 1990
  2. ^ Key seats, The Times, 19 March 1966
  3. ^ "More trouble for Tories at Eastbourne", The Times, 11 February 1972

External links[edit]