Thursday, February 17, 2011

A real liberal

Writing obituaries is a sad business, particularly about someone, in this case Lord Monson, the freedom campaigner, as the Daily Telegraph so rightly called him, whom I knew well and with whom I have worked in the House of Lords.

Melissa Kite's article, quoted above, sums up Lord Monson's activity reasonably well though somewhat superficially. So far there has been no obituary, presumably because active in many different fields, Lord Monson eschewed personal publicity and was not known to many hacks.

Among other things he was a confirmed EU withdrawalist, though he also believed that our own government should also get out of people's lives, a man who opposed surrender to the IRA, a stalwart fighter against the hunting ban, the President of the Society for Individual Freedom, a trustee of the Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies and others, too numerous to mention.

I first met Lord Monson at the very beginning of the Anti-Federalist League, which later morphed into UKIP. We wanted to launch the new party in one of the House of Lords committee rooms and the rule is that such events have to be sponsored by a member of the House who has to be present. For various reasons the peer whom Alan Sked had asked could not attend so he, in turn, asked Lord Monson to do so. Without knowing any of us (though he did recognize my surname and told me that he had read my father's articles) Lord Monson agreed because he believed in the rightness of the cause. Subsequently, in the 1992 election he persuaded a number of people to vote for the AFL as he could not vote himself.

It was Lord Monson who sponsored my pass to the Lords in order for me to do the research and briefs for various peers; he was among the most trenchant speakers in all the debates over Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, the Constitution and Lisbon. Generally speaking, his approach was from the point of view of individual freedom as a cursory glance through his contributions would show. There are not that many people even in the Lords, let alone the Commons, who believe in old-fashioned liberal values but Ivan Monson did. (He asked me to call him Ivan when I first started working with him, promising to explain why and how John had transmogrified into Ivan but he never did, leaving me to guess.)

His other interests were Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, Turkey where he went frequently and about which he knew a great deal, country sports and activities. I am not sure whether he hunted himself but I do know that he opposed the government's deep desire to control activities in the countryside and took his entire family, including very young grandchildren to the Countryside Alliance march.

My last conversation with Ivan Monson took place a couple of weeks before his death. He was in the Lords (where he had not attended much in recent months, clearly for reasons of health) but on crutches because he had had an operation on one knee and was planning to have one on the other as soon as possible. Sadly, he looked frail and tired but the chat we had was as delightful and invigorating as ever. Among other things he complained bitterly about the number of new peers this government, outdoing the last one, was appointing. They would toe the line, was his opinion. With this lot we probably could not get any Bill of Malcolm Pearson's through the Second Reading, let alone Committee stage. Sad but true.

I shall miss Ivan Monson, a very quiet, gentle but utterly strong-minded man. I am glad to say, however, that arrangements are being made for me to continue work in the House of Lords about which I shall go on reporting on this blog.

UPDATE: A belated and not entirely adequate obituary in the Daily Telegraph.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Obit...May he rest in peaceful campaigning.

    I really think the DT attempt pitiful although one shouldn't get all bitchy about a death so I won't!