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Tributes (Speaker Weatherill)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:34 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton 12:34 pm, 10th May 2007

I was fortunate in sharing some characteristics with Jack Weatherill. I shared with him the honour of having had conferred on me by the President of Pakistan the Hilal-e-Pakistan. Jack Weatherill was extremely proud of the place that he held in Pakistan and in the Indian sub-continent. He was held in the highest esteem in Pakistan, and he will be much mourned there.

Another shared quality, if it can be called that, is the fact that my father was a tailor, just as Jack was. Jack, however, was a master tailor—a cut above my father, who worked in a factory. Mrs. May recalled the statement made by a senior Tory when Jack entered the House of Commons:"My God, what is this place coming to? They've got my tailor in here." That, of course, was in the far-off days when the Tory party was led by old Etonian toffs. What was interesting about that, as has been said, was the fact that Jack Weatherill was always very proud indeed of having been a tailor. He always dressed immaculately. Indeed, if he was sitting in the Chair today, Mr. Speaker, he might well ask whether hon. Members have a tailor any more. He was a very generous man. Sir Nicholas Winterton pointed out that he would be kind enough to send letters or notes to Members across the House when he appreciated something that they had done. Like the hon. Gentleman, I received one of those notes. He was very good, too, at protecting Members of Parliament when they were in difficulty.

At Prime Minister's Questions, after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, my hon. Friend Joan Ruddock put a question to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, which began with the words, "If the Prime Minister had been in jail for 27 years". I was sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, and I muttered to a colleague that she should have been. That was picked up by the microphones in the House; it was heard by the whole House and it caused huge uproar. He beckoned to me when the event had taken place and said, "Gerald, I think it would help you with the House if you apologised for what you said." I said, "Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate that, but I don't think it would help me with the Labour party if I were to apologise in that way." He laughed, because he was a House of Commons man and he fully understood the quirks of the House. Like you, Mr. Speaker, and like his predecessor, Jack Weatherill never held high office, and I think that that is a very high qualification for being the Speaker of the House of Commons.