|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab):
Never, ever, was a parliamentary nickname more inappropriate: "Kind Jim", "Thoughtful Jim" and yes, "Calculating Jim", but
4 Apr 2005 : Column 1128
not "Sunny Jim" by any stretch of the imagination. He was extremely kind, as has been said, to new Members, and I go back to the 1958 Labour party conference in Scarborough. It was my first conference and I found myself in the unenviable position of moving the first composite motion on the first morning. No one could have been more thoughtful towards an extremely nervous parliamentary candidate. Indeed, Chris Price, the elder brother of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) and I had our proverbial hands held by Jim Callaghan at that time. Not only that, he went out of his way to introduce young members of the party to his many contacts in the developing world. As has been said by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, he certainly had many extremely close friends in the developing world.
When I was elected to the House, the other by-election candidatemany will remember Jeremy Brayand I were asked within a couple of days to go and see the shadow Chancellor in his room. He said that had been told by Sara Barker, the legendary national party agent, that we were both excellent by-election candidates. Then he looked at us and said, "Of course, in my experience, Sara's swans turn into geese." That was Jim. Jeremy then proceeded to give the shadow Chancellor a lecture on econometrics as only Jeremy Bray could.
Jim was a thoughtful man. I am the last Member of the House of Commons who had to stand at the Bar of the House to face Mr. Speaker putting on his black cap to administer a formal rebuke, after I was "done over", shall we say, on Porton Down, by the Privileges Committee. Jim Callaghan first said that he did not take part in blood rituals and was not going to vote for what was, after all, a Speaker's motion when he was Home Secretary. Secondly, he summoned me when I was in adversity: he called me a chump, but no one could have been kinder. It is the experience of Roy Hattersley and many others of our generation that Jim was extremely thoughtful and kind whenever there was trouble.
In 1969, I wanted to go to Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) will remember the incident. Being a courteous person, I let the then Minister of State in the Home OfficeWelsh Members will remember him as Elystan Morganknow that I wanted to go to the troubles of Northern Ireland. I received one of those pink slips, but it was not from Elystan Morgan but from the Home Secretary, inviting me to go and see him forthwith.
I waddled across to that long sepulchral room in the Home Office and there was Jim Callaghan sitting at his desk. He looked up and said, "I hear you want to go to Northern Ireland. What do you think you can do for the good of the Northern Irish that I cannot do as Home Secretary?" He was quite good at reducing his colleagues to a watery laugh. After that, he went on to explain that in no way was he going to have his faithful Parliamentary Private Secretary, the late Gregor Mackenzie or any Scot in Northern Ireland. He would depend on Roland Moyle, whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) knows very well was, along with Merlyn Rees, Roger Stott and others, part of the Callaghan praetorian guard. Jim Callaghan certainly gave great loyalty to those who were loyal to him.
4 Apr 2005 : Column 1129
I also think of Jim's courage. In 1972, I went to his flat in south London after he had had a prostate operation. He took the view that he would probably not come back into central politics again. However, the courage and determination that drove him all his life ensured that he did come backand, indeed, as Foreign Secretary in 1974.
Jim Callaghan was complex. I was the chairman of the Labour party's foreign affairs committee when he was Foreign Secretary. I used to see him every Wednesday night. Sometimes I would say to him, "As a senior member of the Cabinet, what are you going to do about all these problems concerning Scotland, the Scottish Parliament and so on?" "Oh," he said, "Don't trouble me with that nonsense. Tell me what the party thinks about Cyprus." He was a consummate politician, because when the Scottish problem erupted the Prime Minister took a somewhat different view.
In 1986, I was invited by a Welsh constituency Labour party to speak about intelligence and security. I accepted and, being a courteous man, I let the local Member of Parliament know. The response was an invitation to go to tea with Jim and Audrey at their Cardiff flat. I asked him how I would get from his flat to the meeting. "Oh," he said, "I'll take you." I said, "Jim, you are not coming to the meeting are you?" He said, "I always go to my constituency party meetings." He took me and I have never quivered so much in my life. I said to him, "You were only Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. Why are you not talking on intelligence and security?" He smiled sweetly and said, "They never ask me," and added, "I am curious to know what you are going to say." I have many happy memories.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister paid tribute to Jim's faithfulness and great esteem for Audrey. The last time I was on the phone to him some months ago he simply said, as he did to many other people, "I've got to go because I am due to go and see Audrey." I salute both of them.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): I am grateful for the chance to say a few words. I knew Lord Callaghan for 46 yearsexactly half of his long lifeand I join the Prime Minister in his comments about the warmth and fine character of Jim Callaghan. It fell to him, as the then shadow Colonial Secretary, to reply to the debate on central Africa in March 1960 when I made my maiden speech. In his winding-up speech he said some characteristically pleasant words about my maiden speech and subsequently wrote me a charming letter of congratulation. That was typical of his kindness and I had many examples of that during the long years that followed.
I have had the privilege of listening to 10 Prime Ministers answering questions and Jim Callaghan, in the extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances of his premiership, was the ablest of the 10 at answering Prime Minister's questions.
I want to give a little vignette, which is intended to be of historic interest and not controversial. When Hugh Gaitskell was unexpectedly taken ill and his health
4 Apr 2005 : Column 1130
tragically deteriorated almost unbelievably, it was reported that he was suddenly gravely ill. It so happened that I was lunching that day at the Carlton club. When I arrived, Harold Macmillan, who was then Prime Minister, was sitting alone at the members' table, as he often didperhaps twice a weekbut not always alone. He beckoned me over, so I went and sat next to him and said that it looked as though Gaitskell might be dying. Those were the days when party leaders were interested in what Back Benchers had to say[Laughter.] He asked me whom I thought the Labour party would choose to succeed Gaitskell. I said, "Well, the three names that are being mentioned as front runners are Harold Wilson, George Brown and Jim Callaghan." To which Macmillan replied, "If they've any sense, they'll elect Callaghan, because he is much the best man they've got."
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has already referred to the way in which Lord Callaghan always went back to his constituency and to the party. In 1987, I inherited a constituency Labour party that was used to being addressed each month by the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister. As I said at the time, "Follow that." Until I had been here for a while, however, I did not realise that the help that I received as a constituency MP from my predecessor was not the universal experience of all my colleagues. Nobody could have been kinder or more helpful than Jim.
For Jim, the people of Cardiff, South and Penarth came first. As Foreign Secretary or as Prime Minister, he always asked the question, "What are people saying in Splott, Llanrumney, Penarth and Grangetown?" I was privileged to sit in on surgery sessions as he dealt with the individual and community problems of people in the constituency and in sessions with his agent, Jack Brooksnow Lord Brooks of Tremorfaand with Gordon Houlston, the chair of the constituency party, as he probed the local issues and linked them to his national and international perspectives. His love and care for the people of the constituency is still reflected in their deep and abiding affection for him.
One anecdote sums it all up for me. Jim was introduced to the great Joe Erskine, the boxer from Butetown. "I'm delighted to meet you," said Jim, "You're a hero of mine. I've always wanted to meet you." Joe said, "We've met before, Mr. Callaghan." "Oh," said Jim, "I don't think we have. You've been my hero. I would have remembered." "No," said Joe Eskine, "Do you remember taking a group of children from St. Mary's school in the docks around the House of Commons? I was 11 years old at the time, and you shook my hand as we left." Jim then said wryly, "You should always remember and be careful how you speak to 11-year-old boys. You never know what they are going to grow up into."
Jim never forgot his people in his constituency and they loved him for it. After standing down as MP, he continued to work for us, supporting the development
4 Apr 2005 : Column 1131
of Cardiff bay and helping us to find the right design for the new building for the National Assembly for Wales.Audrey, who died 11 days before him, was loved and celebrated in her own right, as a campaigner on children's issues as well as Jim's constant companion in his visits to the constituency.
Those who accuse MPs of being remote or detached forget that we return to our constituencies regularly to respond to individual and community concerns and to hear directly from the people. Nobody could have possibly encapsulated that essential relationship between the parliamentarian and the people more perfectly than Jim Callaghan and his relationship with the people of Cardiff, South and Penarth. He provided a model that we should all aspire to follow. May he rest in peace.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|