Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Eighty-eight years ago

It was widely tweeted that Nick Clegg was the first Liberal to take Prime Minister's questions since 1922, when he stepped into the shoes of David Cameron, absent in foreign parts. This mis-statement persisted in spite of older heads pointing out that Prime Minister's Questions had been established in the 1960s by Harold Macmillan and that Nick was a Liberal Democrat rather than a Liberal. (Moreover, if I understood a talk by Lord Hooson correctly, Lloyd George described himself in the parliamentary handbooks of his time as a Welsh Nationalist, not a Liberal.) Clegg was therefore the first ever Liberal Democrat to take Prime Minister's Questions.

Out of interest, I looked up the Times archive for that week eighty-eight years ago. There was not much business in the Commons, which was about to rise for the summer. The business was significant, though: a debate on how to clean up the honours system.

The prime minister himself was entertaining to dinner the Prince of Wales, who had returned in March from a four-month progress through India (there are always coincidences if you look for them). There were no signs in the Prince's speech of his later infatuation with Nazism and its racism. He proclaimed himself an "optimist" about the future of the Indian Empire. The Times sticks to reporting the occasion with no extraneous material. Today's newspapers would surely add a sidebar referring to Gandhi's campaign for a boycott of the royal visit.

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