On Tuesday evening, I attended the second in the series of Speaker’s Lectures on great parliamentarians. It was given by the Father of the House of Commons, Sir Peter Tapsell, MP for Louth and Horncastle, on F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead). It was Sir Peter’s 81st birthday.
It was a magnificent evening. Sir Peter regaled us with examples of F.E.’s legendary wit as well as lacing his talk with humerous asides of his own. He clearly knew Smith’s life in detail – great detail. The lectures are each meant to last about 50 minutes or so, followed by questions. Sir Peter began shortly after 7.00 p.m. At 8.00 p.m. he was still going strong. As 8.30 p.m. approached, he had yet to get to Smith’s ministerial career! He reached his conclusion, having cleary jettisoned some of his notes, shortly before 9.00. It was a remarkable tour d’horizon.
I may not necessarily follow Sir Peter’s example when I come to give my lecture on Enoch Powell. Then again….