Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: Fun in Parliament

The Leicester area has always had more than its fair share of larger than life Members of Parliament.

Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, is credited with calling the first democratic Parliament in the 13th century. Well, it wasn’t really democratic – it simply included Simon’s friends rather than just the King’s, so it started to limit the power of the King, which obviously was a step in the right direction.

One well-known man, however, who tried unsuccessfully to be elected for Leicester was Winston Churchill. He never forgave Leicester for this slight. For the rest of his life, if ever Leicester was mentioned to him, he would reply “Leicester? Beastly place, Leicester!”

Ramsay McDonald, however, who became Labour Prime Minister, was more fortunate. The people of Leicester did vote him in.

Since then, there have been many prominent Members. Nigel Lawson, an outstanding Chancellor who seems to be more famous today for having lost a lot of weight, was M.P. for Blaby.

Over the last few years, Leicester has provided two Government Ministers, Keith Vaz and the present Minister of Health, Patricia Hewitt, while Stephen Dorrell of Charnwood was also a Minister for a while.

Alan Duncan, M.P. for Melton (that’s Melton Mowbray) and Rutland, gained a lot of credit for honesty when he became the first openly gay Conservative Member.

Over the border, Derbyshire has provided us with Margaret Beckett, the controversial Edwina Currie, and the man universally known as “the Beast of Bolsover”, Dennis Skinner.

Nottinghamshire has produced Jeff Hoon, not forgetting the hugely experienced Kenneth Clarke, one of the candidates in the Conservative leader election. Anyone who loves cricket and jazz must have a lot of good in him, and Ken is always a welcome visitor to Grace Road.

But the prize for the best contribution to democracy must go to Viscount Curzon, the erstwhile Member for South Leicestershire. He made two speeches in the House. The first was “Shut that door!” and the second “Open that window!”