Friday, 17 April 2015

We Will Remember Them: Dr John Joseph Esmonde 17 Apr 1915

Continuing to look at the lives of the MPs who died during the First World War

Dr John Joseph Esmonde was born into the Irish gentry. His father's elder brother also John was the 10th Baronet, who had initially been elected to Westminster for the Irish Liberal Party who later transferred his allegiance to the Independent Irish Party.

John was a Doctor by profession but followed the course of his uncle when he was elected as the Nationalist MP for North Tipperary in 1910. He was married firstly to Rose Magennis and they live in Pontesbury, England until her death in 1901. They had three sons John, Geoffrey and Anthony.

In 1904 he married again to Eily O'Sullivan they would have seven further children.

He was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Captain when he died of pneumonia and heart failure consequent on the strain of overwork.

He was succeeded in his seat by his 21-year-old son John Lymbrick Esmonde, who at the time of his election was serving as a Second Lieutenant with the Leinster Regiment. A younger son Geoffrey who was a Second Lieutenant in the Tyneside Irish died in Oct 1916 while serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers. A second son Eugene from his second marriage was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in 1942 as a pilot in the Royal Navy as part of a torbedo bomber squadron. His youngest son Paddy was another decorated soldier receiving a Miltary Cross for his actions on the Rhine in 1944 like his father in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Dr John Joseph Esmonde 27 Jan 1862 - 17 Apr 1915 MP for North Tipperary 1910 -15

Monday, 13 April 2015

We Will Remember them: William Glynne Charles Gladstone d. 13 April 1915

Lieutenant W.G.C. Gladstone MP, of the Welsh Fusiliers
Continuing the occasional series looking at the MPs who were killed fighting in World War I we come across one of the most famous surnames in British politics. The last of four generations of Gladstone's to serve in the Houses of Commons the most famous of which being his Grandfather the four time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.

William Glynne Charles Gladstone was the fourth and last generation of the Gladstones to sit in the House of Commons. He was born in  July 1885 into a political dynasty at the time his Grandfather had just been succeeded at the end of his second administration as Prime Minister by the Marquess of Salisbury and his father was still an MP.

His Great Grandfather John was MP for Lancaster (1818-20), Woodstock (1820-26) and  Berwick-Upon-Tweed (1826-27).

William Glynne Gladstone next to his Grandfather
 His Grandfather of course was the four time Prime Minister and Grand Old Man himself William Ewart Gladstone. Who in turn was MP for Newark (1832-45), Oxford University (1845-65), South Lancashire (1865-67), Greenwich (1867-1880) and Midlothian (1880-95). Whose brother Thomas was also an MP.

His father was William Henry Gladstone who had been MP for Chester (1865-68), Whitby (1868-80) and East Worcestershire (1880-85), who was also a member of the England squad in the first unofficial Rugby Union International against Scotland. His youngest brother Herbert John was another of the MPs in the family rising to the office of Home Secretary from 1905-10.

William himself inherited his father's estate, the long time Gladstone family home, Hawarden before his sixth birthday, though his grandfather was still alive for a further seven years. In 1911 he was elected to Parliament following a by-election for Kilmarnock district. It was the first time that Labour had stood in the constituency but it was his Conservative opponent John David Rees who had been the MP for Montgomery until the previous year's general election who had been seeking a return to Westminster who came in second. Rees was subsequently to sit across the chamber from Gladstone when he won a by election for Nottingham East, which he would hold until his death in 1922.

His first mention in Hansard actually occurs a few months before his election in Kilmarnock, upon his appointment as His Majesty's Lieutenant for Cheshire:

Mr Rupert Gwynne (Con - Eastborne) : asked the Prime Minister whether Mr. W. G. C. Gladstone, of Hawarden Castle, who has lately been appointed His Majesty's lieutenant for the county of Flintshire, is serving, or has served, in the Territorial Forces?

The Prime Minister (Mr Herbert Asquith) : I believe that Mr. Gladstone has done no military service. I may say that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for War, whom I consulted, came to the conclusion that as military experience was very fully represented on the Flint Territorial Force Association, Mr. Gladstone, with his considerable territorial connection and influence, would be acceptable as president of the association.

Mr. R. Gwynne: Are we to assume, then, that he has been appointed on any other qualification than the hereditary one?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Member must assume nothing of the kind. Mr. Gladstone has been selected as the fittest person for the appointment.

It is therefore sad that less than 4 years later The Times carried the death notice (pictured right) of Lieutenant W.G.C. Gladstone M.P. the second Member of Parliament to die in this war. It reads:

"As announced in The Times on March 19, he left Wrexham on March 15 for the front, and so has been killed within a month of his going abroad."

It make mention of the exchange in the Commons mentioned above going on to say:

"He discharged the duties of the post [as H.M. Lieutenant of Cheshire], however, with zeal and earnestness, and when war broke out was active in promoting recruiting. Later he decided that it was his duty to offer himself for service and applied for and received a commission as second Lieutenant in the Welsh Fusiliers"

The article  goes on to mention Arthur O'Neill who fell in the service of his country the previous November plus lists the lengthening Commons Roll of Honour at the time, mention Aubrey Herbert (Con - South Somerset), Edward Fitzroy (Con - Northamptonshire South), George Sandys (Con - Wells) , Captain Duncan Campbell (Unionist - North Ayrshire), as among the wounded. Major Clive Morrison-Bell (Con - Honiton) and the 12th Earl of Stair (before 2 Dec 1914 John Dalrymple, Viscount Dalrymple Conservative MP for Wigtonshire) as mentioned as prisoners of war.

Gladstone had been President of the Oxford Union in 1907 a notice in The Times on 18th May 1915 mentions that a portrait of the past President (see top), a gift from his mother, was to he hung without any ceremony close to the bust of his grandfather in the Oxford Union Society's Debating Hall. His sister writing on behalf of their mother said:

Would you kindly convey to the Union Society her most sincere thanks for their sympathy for her. We are sending you one of his latest photographs taken shortly before he left for the front. His loss is to us an overwhelming one, but there is a real consolation for so great and righteous a cause. As you say, one can only feel proud of him.

The portrait bore the line published in The Times:

Consillo ille senex, stetit hic juvenlibus armis.
Pro patria; palmas dividat ipse Deus.  
At the suggestion of the old man, he was early to arms
For the country; He divides the palms of God.

There is a memorial stone in Hawarden churchyard which includes a quotation from his last letter to his mother.

It is not the length of existence that counts, but what is achieved during that existence, however short.
We will remember him

Lt. William Glynne Charles Gladstone MP for Kilmarnock 14 July 1885 - 13 April 1915

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Tory fine dining approach to cuts

One of the lessons I learnt as a child was that if a restaurant didn't list their prices on the bill of fayre outside the establishment it was because my two teacher parents probably couldn't afford it.

Today we are hearing that the Conservative party are saying that there will be £12bn in cuts after the election, but they are not telling you where on that menu those cuts are coming. Therefore you do not know if those cuts will be affecting you. This is not good enough the people are going to the polls in 37 days and deserve to know what is in stall for them if they vote for a major party.

The Liberal Democrats have already outlined fewer cuts in their alternative economic statement, we're promising to cut less than the Conservatives while at the same time borrowing less than Labour but balancing the books fairly, without stretching the economy.

But the Conservatives are basically displaying their menu for the next five years in a window to the voter. But they aren't listing the prices. Maybe they can afford to eat in the high end restaurants but the voters of Sedgefield and most of the country cannot.


Why I support the Trans Manifesto

I have just read in Pink News that the LGBT Consortium are writing to all general election candidates to support the Trans Manifesto.

There are three main strands to that manifesto:
  • Regard trans individuals as equal citizens with equal rights, 
  • Empower trans individuals to be authorities on all aspects of their own lives, 
  • Encourage diverse, representative, realistic and positive portrayals of trans individuals.
Regular readers will know my record on Transgender issues, but I understand in the run up to the election some of you are landing on my website for the first time. So here are some of the things I, a Cisgender* gay man, have worked on to achieve the three aims above.

Firstly just over five years ago it was I who took the Trans elements out of the Equal Marriage motion to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference and turn it into an amendment. The reason was  there were issues such as the spousal veto, the need to dissolve or divorce an existing partner before starting gender reassignment etc that needed the extra time this would allow to explain to a hall full of people, many of whom did not know a Trans person closely enough to know about these issues.

Also having set up LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Ireland along with TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) launched an North/South onslaught through social media, blogs and comments sections against Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, for their Transphobic advert for the 2012 Cheltenham Fesitval.

As a sportsman I stand up against Transphobia as much as I do against homophobia. Knowing all too well from personal experience how uncomfortable you can be made to feel even in a gym locker room by being different. It is something that needs to be kicked out of our sporting arenas.

Until the recent inclusion of Transgender campaigning with the remit of Stonewall, I refused to include the silent "t" within their name whenever I posted on social media, or in a block. Constantly querying representatives of Stonewall England and Wales whenever I saw them about this (Scotland were more forward thinking).

I continue to stand beside my Trans friends with great regard, empowering and encouraging them and others who are less vocal and in line of sight of political leaders. Part of how I currently do that is by serving on the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats executive committee. Sadly many Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual individuals take the same view that Stonewall did until last year and neglect the T in LGBT, but I'm also reminded of the line in the movie Pride "Your struggle is my struggle" this holds true for me in relation to Trans issues.

I fully support, indeed have been fully supporting, the strands of the Trans Manifesto for years and will continue to do so, but can do even more if elected.

* individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Death of a Poet: We Will Remember Them Julian Grenfell

Many of the young men who went into battle in World War I were poets, either established or as a way to express themselves and fill the hours of waiting to go over the top. As an act of remembrance to those that never returned to their civilian existence on centenary of the day that they fell I will publish one of their poems.

Today marks 100 years from the passing of Julian Grenfell who as a Captain in the Royal Dragoons on the 13th May had been standing talking to fellow officers near Ypres when a shell landed near them. A splinter hit him in the head and he was transferred to hospital in Boulogne where his mother, father and sister were at his bedside when he died of his wounds. The day after his death alongside news of his death his most famous was published in The Times. 

Into Battle

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze;
And life is Colour and Warmth and Light,
And a striving evermore for these;
And he is dead who will not fight,
And who dies fighting has increase.
The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.
All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their bright comradeship,
The Dog star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion's belt and sworded hip:
The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend;
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridges end.
The kestrel hovering by day,
And the little owls that call by night,
Bid him be swift and keen as they,
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.
The blackbird sings to him: 'Brother, brother,
If this be the last song you shall sing,
Sing well, for you may not sing another;
Brother, sing.'
In dreary doubtful waiting hours,
Before the brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers; -
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!
And when the burning moment breaks,
And all things else are out of mind,
And only joy of battle takes
Him by the throat and makes him blind,
Through joy and blindness he shall know,
Not caring much to know, that still
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so
That it be not the Destined Will.
The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Grenfell attended Eton along with fellow war poet Patrick Shaw-Stewart, before going up to Balliol College Oxford, where he is known to have bullied Philip Sassoon who was later an MP and a cousin of Siegfried. He joined the army in 1910 and , he was the son of William Grenfell who had been Liberal MP for Salisbury (1880-86) and Hereford (1892-3) resigning after falling out with Gladstone over Home Rule, he returned to the commons as Conservative MP for Wycombe (1900-1905) before becoming Baron Desborough. His next oldest brother Gerald William died about 2 months after his elder brother about a mile away from where the shell struck and the youngest brother Ivo George as to perish in a car crash in 1926.

On 1 January 1915 Julian Grenfell was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:
On 17 November he succeeded in reaching a point behind the enemy's trenches and making an excellent reconnaissance, furnishing early information of a pending attack by the enemy.

There are very few poems by Grenfell that exist. But some had been published in the Eton College Chronicle and while studying there also in London World and Vanity Fair.

Julian Henry Francis Grenfell DSO 30 March 1888 London, England - 26 May 1915 Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

See also: The other poets who died in the war.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Five Green Laws

For the 2015 General Election the Lib Dems give to you five green laws.

Looking to build on our record in Government as well as having a green thread throughout our manifesto there are five specific environmental areas that the Liberal Democrats will specifically highlight with five new green laws.

Zero Carbon Bill
Introducing a Bill in the next parliament to end Britain’s adverse impact on climate change for good by

Measures will include:

  •  A new legally binding target for Zero Carbon Britain by 2050 
  • A new legally binding decarbonisation target for the power sector by 2030 to support investment in all forms of low carbon electricity 
  • Establishing an Office for Accelerated Low Carbon Innovation to fast-track new green tech including tidal power, renewable heat, ultra-low emission vehicles, energy storage and CCS 
  • Applying Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) to existing coal plants from 2025 to end use of unabated coal generation 
  • Full borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank, to further boost investment in low carbon technology

Zero Waste Bill

Treble fines and claw back £500 million for the taxpayer by clamping down on organisations which fly-tip to deliberately evade tax and review the tax structure across landfill, incineration and collection.

A "Responsibility Deal" between government and business to ensure packaging for consumer products are designed for recycling rather than designed for dumping,

Commission a Stern type review to undertake a UK-wide review on how Britain’s waste can be used as a resource to generate revenue for the economy and the possibility of legally binding targets on waste.

Nature Bill

Establish the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing to provide advice to Government to ensure that nature is at the heart of government decision-making and that government departments are held to account for achieving progress against commitments to improving the natural environment.

Plans include:

  • Bring forward a package to protect bees and pollinators and help them recover 
  • Design and adopt a National Food Strategy and encourage local councils to adopt a food plan in order to foster the growth of local food economies, from field to fork. 
  • Bring forward a package to protect bees and pollinators and help them recover.
Green Homes Bill

New Green Homes Bill will insulate up to 10 million homes by 2025 and offer at least £100 a year off Council Tax for ten years when energy improvements are carried out. The new Bill would ensure these achievements are built on, incentivising people to insulate their Offering at least £100 each year off your Council Tax for 10 years, when you significantly upgrade the energy efficiency of your home

Other plans under the bill would include:

  • Reforming the Green Deal 'pay as you save' scheme into a new ‘Green Homes Loan Scheme’ which would extend the current scheme to include renewable heat and electricity 
  • A new 'Feed out Tariff' for investment in Solid Wall Insulation, the most expensive and disruptive type of energy efficiency measure

Green Transport Bill

Transport has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions. In the UK, transport is responsible for around 25% of our carbon emissions and is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. We will bring forward a comprehensive package of transport policies to continue to build a people-centred, sustainable, safe travel system that helps the economy grow.
Other plans would include:

  • Fast track support for the growing electric vehicle market, starting with implementing a full network of charging points for electric cars, and a target of 2040 
  • Make progress towards implementing the recommendations of the 'Get Britain Cycling' report 
  • We will update planning law to ensure new infrastructure developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport 
  • Oppose any increase to the national speed limit We will undertake a review of road transport taxation 
  • Where 20mph isn't achieving the saving of children’s lives, give local authorities the power to reduce the speed limit outside schools to 10mph 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Danny Alexander lays out Liberal Democrat economic plan

Today the day after George Osborne delivered the final budget of this coalition Government Danny Alexander the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary of the Treasury laid out our plans for tax and spending.

Lib Dem plans include borrowing £70bn less than Labour and cutting £50bn less than the Conservatives, keeping Britain on the path to prosperity, showing that we still believe in a stronger economy AND and fairer society; the Conservatives recently dropped the latter in a campaign poster and in their budget plans.

Danny announced using the same figures that were available to Osborne that there is still roughly roughly £30bn of fiscal consolidation by 2017/18 to complete the job of economic recovery. To go about funding this the Liberal Democrats will ensure that those with the broadest shoulders to bear the largest share.

To fund this the Liberal Democrats will raise £6bn through shutting remaining tax loopholes, £6bn will come from tax rises, with high value properties and the banking sector paying more. The additional money will come from £12bn of departmental savings and £3.5bn from welfare savings.

Public expenditure can then start to increase once this threshold is met and ensuring that the NHS has the £8bn a year it needs to secure its future.

 The measures to tackle tax invasion include:

  •  Introducing a new strict liability criminal offence for off shore evaders so that pleading ignorance can no longer be used in an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution. 
  • Introducing a new offence of corporate failure to prevent tax evasion or the facilitation of tax evasion. This would stop organisations from being able to get away with facilitating or abetting others to evade tax. 
  • Increasing financial penalties for offshore evaders – including, for the first time, linking the penalty to underlying assets. A billionaire evading £5m of tax won’t just be liable for that £5m. 
  • Introducing new civil penalties so that those who help evaders will have to pay fines that match the size of the tax dodge they facilitate. So if you help someone evade £1m of tax, you risk a penalty of £1m or even more yourself. 
  • Extending the scope for HMRC to name and shame both evaders and those who enable evasion.