The impact of a local MP

Founder's Day Celebration GW0G2409Last Thursday I delivered the University’s Founder’s Day Lecture at Holy Trinity Church, Hull.  The picture shows me in full flow.  As mentioned in my earlier post, my topic was Thomas Ferens as a  parliamentarian.  Ferens was founder of the University and is well known as a successful businessman (he helped build Reckitts into a major international company) and benefactor (founding not only the University, but  also helping create, among other things, the Ferens Art Gallery and Hull Garden Village).  When he started working in Hull his salary was £70 a year.  When he died, his estate was valued at almost £300,000, most of which went to charities.  During his lifetime, he gave away more than £1 million.

He is less well known as a parliamentarian.  He sat in the House of Commons for near on 13 years (Feb. 1906 to Nov. 1918) as the Liberal MP for Hull East.  (He was an Asquith rather than a Lloyd George Liberal, his failure to support the Lloyd George Coalition effectively leading to the end of his parliamentary career.)  He was not a prominent MP, overshadowed by contemporaries such as the MP for Hull Central, Sir Mark Sykes (responsible for the Sykes-Picot agreement).  He was not a frequent speaker, but preferred questioning ministers.  His service in the House was precisely that.  He was not out to achieve anything for himself.  He had nothing to prove.  He was 58 when first elected and 71 when he lost his seat.  He didn’t like speaking and suffered from poor eyesight.  He was what Donald Searing would class as a constituency Member and one that promoted local interests as well as pursuing the concerns of individual constituents.   He was also ahead of his time on some of the wider issues he pursued, not least in terms of the rights of women, supporting not only women’s suffrage, but also pursuing the issue of female trafficking in Asia.  His service was combined with his other roles, essentially all coming together as part of his work on behalf of Hull.

For me, he was an obvious person to choose as the subject of the lecture.  He was the University founder.  He was also teetotal, a Methodist, who moved to and made his career in Hull and ended up in Parliament…


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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7 Responses to The impact of a local MP

  1. Mark Shephard says:

    Interesting to hear more about the name behind a lot of Hull buildings and streets. Looks like a photo caption shot as well…Rise Like a Phoenix comes to mind…

    • Lord Norton says:

      I am reviewing a number of the photographs of the occasion with the caption competition in mind.

      • Tony Sands says:

        To do it justice I think you’d need more than a photo but a film clip with sound to take the caption competition to new heights. One of your lectures sandwiched between such angelic singing, I’m sure you’d concur, was like being in political science heaven.

  2. Tony Sands says:

    I must confess that I knew nothing of Ferens other than the name and the obvious fact that he was a philanthropist until I heard your lecture. I hadn’t expected the subject to be quite as interesting as it was. Although your post is a good summary of the lecture, it would informative for visitors to the gallery or university to have access to a printed copy. Might it appear in published form possibly in a local publication in the near future?

  3. Pingback: Founder’s Day and Magna Carta lectures | The Norton View

  4. Pingback: Freeman of the City of Kingston upon Hull | The Norton View

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