Peter Freeman - Hero and Green Apostle
The right man: the wrong century.
A member of the audience at a drugs conference at Fairwater, Cardiff in March 1999 asked me if I admired the same Welsh Politician that she did. Not Aneurin Bevan or Jim Griffiths, it was the now almost entirely forgotten but amazing character Peter Freeman. He was MP for Newport from 1946 until his agonising death in 1956.
Even in his final moments he refused the pain killing drugs that he had not taken throughout his adult life. He rejected medicinal drugs as more damaging than beneficial. Previously he had been the MP for sheep rearing heartland of Brecon although he never tasted meat.
Many other views he had were judged by his contemporaries as wildly eccentric. Now they are progressive or even orthodox.
Opponents of capital punishment in the forties were abused as the ‘friends of murderers’. Along with Sidney Silverman and a handful of other MPs, he voted for abolishing capital punishment in 1946.
He was even more isolated in parliament when he campaigned for international charter to end cruelty, exploitation and neglect of helpless animals. The Commons hooted in derision at his plea to end the boiling alive of lobsters. He was unmoved by their laughter but wounded by the accusation that he care more for animals than children.
He felt his record in pursuit of universal freedom, the industrial and social health of the community and the welfare of the young and the aged were emphatic answers to his critics.
In the first World War he turned his families cigar factories into model enterprises. He never smoked and he was a total abstainer. As a millionaire he became a poor law guardian before his 21st birthday.
His advanced views robbed him of any chance of climbing the political promotion ladder. He was a pacifist and theosophist. Had he been born a couple of generations later, he might have founded the Green Party. It is gratifying to know that the memories of this principled fearless politician still survive.