Friday, 3 March 2017

So much unfinished business

Most of the tributes to Sir Gerald Kaufman at Business Questions yesterday marked his attributes as a parliamentarian, his helpfulness to new members, his flamboyant life-style, his concern for his constituents and his service - behind the scenes as well as publicly - to the Labour Party. He was a visceral campaigner for the latter and it is a pity that none of the Liberal Democrat MPs who crossed swords with him in Manchester survived the 2015 general election and thus could not contribute anecdotes about Sir Gerald during the "ground war". In the immortal words of Sir David Steel on Robert Mugabe, "he was no liberal". But who knew that he was a bosom pal of the Conservative Michael Fabricant?

The most moving tribute came from David Winnick, who shared not only Sir Gerald's Jewish background, his commitment to Israel's right to exist but also his condemnation of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Sir Gerald would dearly have wished to contribute to the debate held last month, on the illegal settlements in Palestine, if illness had not intervened.

He would no doubt have stayed for the later debate that day on football governance. He would have been concerned about the way "the people's sport" had been to a degree taken over by dubious characters with it seems little concern by the English leagues' managements.

I have long known that Sir Gerald in his early days had been a contributor to "That was the week that was" and people of my generation should be grateful for that. What I learned only yesterday was that Sir Gerald was a great friend of Stephen Sondheim and had enabled productions of Sondheim musicals in Manchester. No doubt this covered the period when Sondheim could hardly be staged in the States and contributed to the warm feeling which he has towards Britain.

The Commons will be a poorer place without Gerald Kaufman. His mantle as Father of the House passes to Ken Clarke, an estimable figure, but one who will not be contesting the next election. One wonders whether there will be any left of that group of "Commons men" in the next intake.

No comments: