Friday March 29th marked the 40th anniversary of Lord Alton’s entrance into Parliament, as an MP in the House of Commons.
Lord Alton began his career as a teacher, working in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, teaching immigrant children, and later children with special needs.
He became involved in politics as a teenager and at 17 years of age was elected as chairman of his town’s branch of Young Liberals. In his Student Union he successfully proposed a campaign against apartheid and became active in community politics, choosing to live in a neighbourhood where half the homes had no inside sanitation and had been designated as a slum clearance area. While still a student, aged 21, in 1972 he was elected to Liverpool City Council for the Low Hill (and Smithdown from 1973) Ward and became the city’s Housing Chairman and Deputy Leader. At the time of his election, he was Britain’s youngest city councillor.
He was elected as Member of Parliament for Liverpool Edge Hill at a by-election in 1979 for the former Liberal Party, becoming the “Baby of the House” – the youngest member – achieving a record swing of 36.8% and 64% of the vote.
He won the seat the day after the Callaghan Government was defeated in a vote of confidence and the 1979 General Election being called. He became the shortest lived MP, a Member for less than a week, and made his Maiden Speech within three hours of taking his seat. Five weeks later he was re-elected and went on to serve as a Liverpool MP for 18 years, before standing down in 1997. He was the only new member of a Parliamentary Party of 11 MPs. He campaigned on the slogan “Everyone Knows Someone Whose Been Helped by David Alton.”
He was his Party’s spokesman on Home Affairs, Northern Ireland, Overseas Development and the Environment, and served as Chief Whip, Chairman of the Party’s Policy Committee and national President of the National League of Young Liberals.
In 1987 he resigned as Chief Whip to campaign for his unsuccessful private member’s bill which aimed to stop late abortions. The Bill achieved a record 296 votes and a majority of 45 in the House of Commons – and never lost a vote at any stage – but was filibustered by opponents.
In 1992, after his Party moved from a “conscience” position on abortion to making the issue a matter of party policy (on the same day on which a motion was passed calling, among other things, for protection of goldfish sold in amusement arcades and funfairs) he announced that he would not contest again on the party’s platform.
In 1997 he stood down from the House of Commons, and from party politics, and was nominated by the Prime Minister, Sir John Major, to the House of Lords, where he sits as an Independent Life Peer, speaking regularly on human rights and religious liberty issues.
A champion for life
Throughout his time in Parliament, Lord Alton has relentlessly championed the cause of the unborn and women facing crisis pregnancies.
After 40 years of championing this issue, Lord Alton continues to work relentlessly to promote the pro-life cause in Parliament. Our Westminster team have the honour of being able to work directly with Lord Alton on a regular basis. He is the key driver of pro-life activity in the House of Lords, inspiring a large group of Peers to join him on championing the rights of the vulnerable on this vitally important issue.
He is a role model and mentor to the next generation of key pro-life MPs that we support in the House of Commons, including many of the members of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group
His impact on life issues goes well beyond Parliament. For example, he has spoken in public meetings, schools, universities and churches on life issues to literally hundreds of thousands of people during his 40-years in Parliament.
Our Westminster team recount that they often ask their key allies both in Parliament and out the same question: “how did you first get involved and become passionate about this issue”? More often than not they come back with a similar story: the person went along to a talk by Lord Alton at their school/university/church and had been inspired to take action and become involved with the pro-life cause. He opened their eyes to the truth on this important issue, and they have never looked back!
Thank you Lord Alton on 40 years of service, tirelessly championing a better world for next generation, both born and unborn. Here’s to another 40!
If you are looking read more about Lord Alton, the BBC have an excellent feature piece that was published as part of their Political Lives series which is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21358323