Monday, January 09, 2006

Tony Banks 1943 - 2006

Another one of the political characters has left us at the end of a bad week for Labour politicians - Merlyn Rees, former Labour Northern Ireland Secretary and Home Secretary died on Thursday aged 85. The same day also saw the death of Rachel Squire, aged 51, the serving Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, after a prolonged battle against a number of brain tumours. She was also the PPS to Estelle Morris when she was Education Secretary.

The weekend took a parliamentary fixture from us - Tony Banks, the former Minister for Sport and devoted Chelsea fan. One of his duties was to approve building listing applications and he controversially approved the listing of the Three Magpies pub in Hall Green in Birmingham in 1997 as a fine example of an inter-war period pub. It now forms the centre of a conservation area. He stood down in 2005 and was elevated to the Lords, which did his republican sentiments the power of good.

He was famously outspoken, with an honesty rare in politicians. He suggested foreign players in the Premiership should become eligible for England and that the national teams of the UK should unite. Other politicians received the rough edge of his tongue - he described William Hague as a 'foetus' and more accurately caricatured the philistinism of the Tory MP Terry Dicks as 'living proof that a pig's bladder on a stick can get elected to parliament.'

Despite standing (unsuccessfully) as a Liberal in a London council election, he soon saw the light and described the Liberal Democrats as:
'woolly-hatted, muesli-eating, Tory lick-spittles'
His friend Stephen Pound, another source of good quote, said on the Today programme on Monday 6 January that
'If champagne needed cheering up, it would drink Tony Banks.'

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