Thursday, August 21, 2008

leo abse z"l

leo abse, a welsh and labour member of parliament for over thirty years, has died at the age of 91. apart from being the older brother of our beloved friend dannie, he is also worth celebrating for his pioneering work in the reforming of british family and social life when i was a child. the times notes:

"His concerns were at the heart of the reforms that touched and revolutionised family and social life in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s: the acceptance of homosexuality, divorce and family planning, although he also interested himself in a great range of other social issues including abortion, prisons and, more recently, in vitro fertilisation."
the times obituary

in the grauniad, geoffrey goodman begins:

"The politician, social reformer, writer and lawyer Leo Abse, who has died aged 91, was a unique figure in the public life of our time. He reflected, and transmitted in grandiloquent style, the paradoxes of our age along with his own egocentric capacity to express, often in pyrotechnic rhetoric, the contradictions and absurdities in all our lives. He was a leftwing socialist with a Disraelian quality of showmanship, and a product of a Welsh–Jewish idealism oft times coated with Celtic imagery — always laced with a Jewish romanticism he sought, pointlessly, to disguise."
full obituary

from the telegraph:

"Abse was the first MP to initiate debates on genetic engineering, the dangers of nuclear power generation at Windcsale, and in vitro pregnacies; and he campaigned to change the law which made attempted suicide a criminal act. He made a special study of the problems of delinquency, divorce and counselling. It was due to him that the law was changed, in the Divorce Reform Act of 1969, to allow divorce after a marriage had broken down beyond repair. He despised the system of having to secure a divorce by a bogus admission of adultery or couples being compelled to remain married in name. He also saw that the interests of the child were made a prior consideration in divorce settlements. Perhaps his best-known achievements, however, were piloting through the House of Commons the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1967 and sponsoring what eventually became the 1975 Children’s Act."
full obit

with regard to the political psychobiographies abse wrote later in life, tam dalyell says in the indy:

"Abse's approach was to study the relationship between politics and personality. He dared to place under scrutiny the interior lives of practising politicians. He insisted this had nothing to do with cheap and scurrilous probing, but related to the belief that when political decision-making can have such fateful consequences as peace or war for a nation, the elected politician cannot claim the same right of privacy as that afforded to the electors.

Policies, for Abse, cannot be disengaged from the policy-makers. The drives and psychological needs of the politicians invade and distort the panaceas they offer to the electorates. If more objective assessments are to be made of policies, assessments must be made of the men and women who expound them. Abse himself deserved to be remembered as one of the most significant social reformers of 20th-century Britain."
full obit

it sounds like he was a man for his time. where are such people today?

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