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House of Commons

My Maiden Speech

Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017

By Robert Courts

Robert Courts, who helped to organize the 2015 Churchill Conference in Oxfordshire and is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour, was chosen to fill the parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister David Cameron in a by-election held last October. Robert lives in Bladon, only a stone’s throw from Sir Winston Churchill’s final resting place in St. Martin’s churchyard. As the newly seated Conservative Member of Parliament for Witney, Robert delivered his maiden speech on 30 November 2016, the 142nd anniversary of Churchill’s birth, and made note of a very personal Churchill connection that crossed party lines, as we learn from the following extracts.

Mr. Speaker, in 1945 Albert Stubbs won the seat of Cambridgeshire for the Labour party. He was a famous trade unionist, and he won his seat by a majority of 44 by getting on his motorcycle, riding around the villages of Cambridgeshire and signing up the workers to the union. He was known for his hard work for the people of that area and his interest in rural issues.

I mention Mr. Stubbs because he was my great-grandfather….I do therefore acknowledge at this stage that Mr. Stubbs would be horrified by my politics, but I hope he would at least approve of my work ethic.

I have spoken to the House of my admiration for Winston Churchill, and I thought it would be a good idea if I went back to the records to see whether there was perhaps an exchange between my hero and my forebear. I went to Hansard and I searched for an exchange, and I expected the contrast of the famous parliamentary wit and the working-class warrior. I was thinking of a combination of Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox, and I found in the “Thanks to the Services” debate from 1945 just such an exchange. The great man—speaking from the Opposition Bench, of course— paused in his speech, took an intervention from Mr. Stubbs, told him he was “ignorant” and went back to his speech. I do not know who was right or wrong in that exchange; I merely hope that I will manage to avoid such a rebuke in the course of my career.

Leadership This Day

Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016

Page 38

By Eleanor Laing

“Leadership This Day” illustrates how Winston Churchill’s example guides and motivates today’s leaders. Contributors come from many fields, including business, politics, and the military.

Every day, as I sit in the Speaker’s Chair in the Chamber of the House of Commons, I am acutely aware of the enduring consequences of one of Winston Churchill’s lesser-known “big decisions.”

In the late 1940s plans were being drawn up to rebuild the House of Commons, which had been so badly damaged during the War. The planners considered the basic facts. There were just over 600 MPs at that time, so they produced drawings for a Chamber that would seat 600 people.

Churchill challenged this. He insisted that the Chamber should be rebuilt to approximately the same size as it had previously been—to seat about 400 people.

Those who relied purely on statistics—and don’t we all encounter such people all too frequently—thought it was obvious that a parliamentary chamber should comfortably accommodate everyone who had a right and duty to sit in it. But they missed the point. They misunderstood the essential nature of the place.

Churchill adored the Commons Chamber. It was the forum in which he delivered his greatest speeches. It was his natural habitat. It was his home. He understood it. He knew instinctively how it worked. He had a feel for it that eluded others.

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