Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bert Hazell: The Oldest Surviving Ex MP Has Died

The oldest living ex MP has died. Bert Hazell was Labour MP for North Norfolk, the seat I stood for at the last election from 1964 to 1970. He was 101 years old and died last week. The Yorkshire Evening Post has an account of his life HERE. And the Diss Mercury has more HERE.

It is true to say that they don't make 'em like that anymore. He is still very fondly remembered in North Norfolk.

Hattip Liberal England


JPT said...

I wonder what he made of the current version of the Labour party?

Faceless Bureaucrat said...


I suspect he is happy to be in a better place, rather than continue to witness the slow death of his once proud Party...

Old Holborn said...

Drek Draper CV

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Last Labour Day, I found myself celebrating the radical tradition of Norfolk. In that fossicking, I was surprised and gratified to find that Bert was still alive.

He got to Westminster as the natural successor to Eddie Gooch (both of them were leaders of the National Union of Agricultural Workers -- a small saga in itself). Those who use the occasion of Bert's death to make cheap cracks about the Labour Party then and now should look in the rear-view mirror.

The canard was that the farmers voted NAUW to keep Eddie and Bertie busy elsewhere. Not true. Eddie's and Bertie's tenure of the North Norfolk seat was part of oscillating local social tension.

The seat (1931-1945) had been the possession of Tommy Cook, who was as much a cliché of the squirearchy as one might fear to encounter. Before that again, it had shown radical tendencies in electing Noel Buxton and then his wife. Even further back, it had been the Liberal seat of Herbert Couzins-Hardy of Letheringsett.

Bertie lost the seat in 1970 to Ralph Howell, who could equally epitomise unreconstructed neanderthaler nouveau-richesse and the most admirably-committed constituency member. I remember the neat tribute to him, on his death last February, in this blog. Quite frankly, importing, part-time, David Prior (famously, "so wet you could shoot snipe out of him" -- a borrowing from 1951 and Anthony Powell's A question of Upbringing) was handing the constituency (now plump with second-homers, to add to the mix), dressed and hung, to the LibDims.

Those past MPs for the seat (and I'll add Norman Lamb to the list, and not just out of courtesy) escaped the deadening-hand of conformity that presses down on so many contemporary candidates and (thereby) MPs. Their like is greatly missed, as we move into an age of effortless crawling transition from "political adviser", via party hack, to "statesman".

David Lindsay said...

This death reminds us of what might be called the Rural Myth, that the Tories have some sort of ancestral right to represent the countryside in Parliament. This is contrary to the plain facts of history.

Moreover, in the "long nineteenth century" glory days of the old Liberal Party, and in the early days of the Labour Party (wholly mistakenly assumed to have been a purely urban phenomenon), those MPs returned by agricultural workers and smallholders, and those trade union leaders (often the same people, such as Joseph Arch) who represented those interests, were frequently more radical than their urban-based brethren in demanding democracy, liberty and social justice. In this, they fully represented the views of their constituents and of their members.

And such views are still widely and deeply held in rural Britain. Indeed, much of today's lack of radicalism in the face of rampant poverty, ignorance, ill health, squalor and homelessness, unemployment (however disguised), war, and anti-democratic practice is attributable to the silencing of those voices.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Sorry. One escaped me.

That should be "Herbert Cozens-Hardy", as anyone seeing the company's plate in Opie Street, Norwich, would recognise to this day.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Iain.

Malcolm may already know that Herbert Cozens-Hardy was Kenneth Horne's grandfather.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Thank you, Jonathan @ 11.10 pm.

Yes, indeed. One of those coincidences I greatly enjoy.

In return, may I ask if you knew that Kenneth Horne's father was the Liberal MP for Ipswich and a Congregationalist preacher of some repute? There's still a chapel somewhere in the Welsh borders named in honour of Silvester Horne.

Jonathan Calder said...

Yes, it's the Silvester Horne Institute in Church Stretton.