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Stephen Pound - Comic Hero

The jewel of the 1997 intake of MPs is Stephen Pound. Ripples of laughter spread among MPs from his perch on the backbenches. His flow of banter, insults and jokes are a continuous Greek Chorus to the main speakers.

His convincing chicken screech brought the House to the halt and the Speaker to her feet when he mocked David Amess’ ‘chicken run’ from Basildon. His maiden speech was an hilarious caricature of the dreary formula of lavishing sugary praise on the constituency:

"I realise that it is a convention of the House to introduce one's constituency to hon. Members. I am at a disadvantage because I must admit that there is no such place as Ealing, North. I do not mean that it is some sort of north-west suburban Brigadoon that appears only every 200 or 300 years when the traffic jams at the Target roundabout and the Hanger lane gyratory system are in cosmic alignment.

Ealing, North is a mixture of hamlets, towns, villages and communities, bound together by many things--but most of all by the boundary commissioner. We also have the Wharncliffe viaduct, which was built in 1844 with considerable prescience by Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the express purpose of linking Labour constituencies in west London,. Unfortunately the Wharncliffe viaduct is a few metres south of the constituency.

Ealing Abbey is a glorious building, but, sadly, it too is on the wrong side of the road. I searched for great individuals as some great people must at some stage have lived somewhere in Ealing, North. A few names emerged: Gainsborough's daughters--both of them--were buried, after death, in Hanwell. Sadly, they were carried there from another constituency. Charlie Chaplin and his brother Sidney lived briefly in Hanwell. They did not care much for it and left at the earliest opportunity.

There must have been someone, I thought, then I found that Vincent Van Gogh taught in a girls' school in Isleworth in the 1880s, while conducting an alliance with a young lady in Rayners Lane. As Vincent made his way from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen) to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), he would almost certainly have felt the need to pause for refreshment on his return journey from such an assignation, and where better to pause for a revivifying drink than Greenford? My able researcher examined police records at Greenford police station throughout most of the end of the 19th century. Sadly, according to our records, any number of drunken, bearded impressionists were causing mayhem in Greenford pubs in the 1880s and many of them had parts of their bodily extremities missing.

The one way in which Ealing, North stands unique among the 33 boroughs: in June 1889, a giant circus elephant collapsed on Castlebar hill--and died. The great pachyderm, with its last few breaths, bravely staggered forward and is, to this day, to be found beneath the road--unfortunately, just over the constituency border in Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush. I suspect that his last thought was to leave Ealing, North.

In fiction, we are similarly ill-served. One of the finest books written this century, "Brown on Resolution", by C. S. Forester, which sent generations of us into the Royal Navy--we regretted it immediately afterwards--features a young able seaman, Brown, who was the product of a brief liaison between a naval officer and a between-stairs maid who met on the Great Western railway train at Wharncliffe viaduct. One thing led to another and they paused in Ealing. Before the copulatory instinct grew too strong upon them, they sped towards a hotel in central Ealing. Sadly, they ended up in a hotel in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush.

The Nolan sisters attended Cardinal Wiseman High School, which, sadly, is about 3 m outside the constituency boundary.

We in Ealing, North may not have been blessed with great individuals and great buildings, but the poet laureate, John Betjeman, did once pause awhile in Ealing and dash off the odd verse. In 1961, describing parts of Ealing, he wrote:

"Where smoothly glides the bicycle And softly flows the Brent, And a gentle gale from Perivale Sends up the hayfield scent."

May I warn hon. Members that if they visit Perivale now in anticipation of the hayfield scent, they may not have that olfactory experience--rather, the heady tang of diesel spillage on the A40 is more likely to assail the senses."

Occasionally the clown’s mask slips and a remarkably honest politician is revealed:

“I am asked why I - as a Christian, and a person who tries to lead my life in the imitation of Christ - would, as I intend to, support the Bill....My son is not yet 16. I love my son, and I hope that I will always love my son. I do not know whether he will be gay, straight or bisexual - that is up to him; that is what he will be - but, if he comes out as a gay man at the age of 16 or 17, 1 would like to show my love and respect for him by saying that I value and respect his sexuality just as much as I respect his sister's sexuality.”

Throughout the Livingstone’s stitch-up he was was embassingly loyal, first to Glenda Jackson then to Frank Dobson. Why ?

“I'm a cringing coward. I always vote the way they tell me to vote. I'm a balls-achingly, tooth-grindingly, butt-clenchingly loyal apparatchik.' “

He once infuriated the Parliamentary Labour party by supporting Blairite imposition of a cut on the income of single women by pointing out :

‘It’s no more than the price of a couple of packets of cigarettes.’

The nadir of his parliamentary career was his attempt to justify to John Humphrys his desertion of Glenda Jackson to back Frank Dobson in the campaign for the London Mayoral nomination.

“HUMPHRYS: The charge that's been made many, many times that the election is basically rigged against Ken Livingstone. I mean you were the only MP at one stage supporting Glenda Jackson and then they put the squeeze on you didn't they. The Party bosses put the squeeze on you and you switched to supporting Mr Dobson.

POUND: Well there were actually two MPs supporting Glenda Jackson, you're forgetting Glenda. Well, they're quite....

HUMPHRYS: I assume that she had her own support. And they tried to put the squeeze on her too, but she said no and you said yes.

POUND:No, the whips didn't put the squeeze on me. I mean I'm far too insignificant to be squeezed. What I did was I balloted the membership of my party and Glenda came a very, very poor third and I reflected, I had discussions with the party membership. I mean it may suit the press and the media to have this marvellous image of sort of Machiavellian whips skulking round in Guy Fawkes hats in the lobbies breaking people's arms. But you know life isn't like that.

HUMPHRYS:I thought that Mr Livingstone had actually won that ballot of your party members.

POUND: Ah, yes, any other questions? ”


He is parliaments’ best raconteur. Some of his stories will be stolen and appear here soon.