Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Who was Sir John Lubbock?

"We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth"
JOHN LUBBOCK, The Pleasures of Life

Who was Sir John Lubbock? Firstly, he was my Great Grandfather, and in May this year, it will be 100 years since his death. He served as MP for Maidstone in Kent for 29 years. According to Wiki, he had "four main political agendas: promotion of the study of science in primary and secondary schools; the national debt, free trade, and related economic issues; protection of ancient monuments; securing of additional holidays and shorter working hours for the working classes.[1]
Although he undoubtedly had an incredibly broad range of interests and achievements, he is perhaps best known for The Bank Holidays Act of 1871 which, in their day, were known as "St Lubbock's Day". And yes, he was a banker. In this role, he  introduced a clearing system for provincial banks in 1858 and was the first President of The Institute of Bankers until his death in 1913. (I believe he even hoofed it over to Greece to help in an attempt to sort out the failing Greek economy.) Other legislation he successfully introduced and steered through Parliament (in a prolific way that could hardly be contemplated or attributable to a single individual MP these days) includes: 

Certificate of thanks to Sir John Lubbock from
the President of the Dental Reform Committee, August 1878
  • Shop Hours Act,
  • the Early Closing Act 1900 (to reduce the permitted hours of work in shops and offices)
  • the Open Spaces Act
  • Public Libraries Act
  • The Ancient Monuments Act 1882 which paved the way for the creation of English Heritage and the first legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. 
  • He also successfully worked towards the recognition of dental surgery as a profession for the first time in the Dentists Act 1878.
John Lubbock was also an amateur scientist, working closely with his neighbour in Downe, Kent, one Charles Darwin. I don't know if it it was his acknowledged 'corrections' of Darwin's statistics in Origin of the Species (they exchanged considerable correspondence on this matter), but he eventually reached the esteemed position of President of the Royal Statistical Society (1900 - 1902).In those heady days, it is clear that (admittedly, privileged) individuals could indulge their passions and interests in such a way as it is nigh-on impossible to find evidenced today. In 1865, he coined the terms  "Palaeolithic" and "Neolithic" and he is widely credited with the birth of Archaelogy as a recognised scientific discipline. Indeed, it was after the beautiful and enigmatic archeological treasure of Avebury in Wiltshire that Sir John took the title Lord Avebury in 1900.
And, one of my personal favourites - and the original inspiration for this blog, the founding in January 1884 of the Proportional Representation Society (which later became the Electoral Reform Society in 1958).
Unlike my brother, Lyulph (who is an expert on our family history), I rarely visit this family past in any depth, but perhaps on the occasion of my great grandfather's death 100 years ago, a little indulgent reflection may be understood and tolerated. What I do find a little disconcerting and surprising, is just quite how relevant his work and interests are to the politics and uncertainties of today - whether it'sthe use and function of public libraries, the protection of ancient monuments, working hours, dealing with the National Debt and debt defaults in the Eurozone, or the promotion of science in the curriculum. 

Plus ├ža change.

Reference sources:
The Royal Society - Avebury's Circle (March 2013)
The Royal Society - Election Card

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Grappling, groping and groaning

Another fantastic LibDem 'own goal' with the on-going Lord Rennard saga. I've never met him personally, but was shocked today when a friend of my mother's half-jokingly asked me if I'd ever been groped. I can honestly say the only LibDem groping I've had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of was at a  Party Conference in Blackpool way back in the 70s. It was entirely consensual and with another passionate Young Liberal who subsequently became a 'special friend'.

But on the subject of groping, I have been amazed at how poorly the party machinery seems to have reacted to these allegations, with one or two notable exceptions (Simon Hughes, Stephen Tall amongst them).

Debate within the party appears to be moving towards questioning the party's commitment to equal opportunities, and that surely will bring us right back to the issue of positive discrimination or selection of PPCs.

I have, on more than one occasion, considered putting myself through the Parliamentary candidate selection procedure, but having seen "Westminster Life" up close and personal, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have either the stamina - or indeed the necessary ambition - to subject myself and my family to such an experience. After all, I've not even succeeded in converting my beloved hubbie of 30 years who, like me, has his own 'Tribal loyalties' and only extended politically to supporting my term as an elected Councillor in Hackney in the 80s.

With the imminent Eastleigh by-election and once again, an anticipated plummet in the polls, I wonder how long it'll be before party members start to query Clegg's competence, and even if there isn't a move to replace Clegg before the next election, who's the alternative when the time does come?

As a party, we are in serious danger of sinking into obscurity unless someone quickly gets a grip and I do therefore seriously hope that one thing Chris Rennard might have achieved when he could have, is to train up and mentor a suitable "Election Campaigning Supremo", since his reputation in that respect remains untarnished.