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What are the best parliamentary speeches of the last hundred years?

Ken Clarke The Guardian reports that Hansard - marking their centenary as the official record of Parliamentary proceedings - have published a book of the greatest parliamentary speeches of the last hundred years.

Senior figures have been asked to identify their favourite speech of the 1909 - 2009 period. Rather surprisingly, the achingly partisan Gordon Brown has chosen Sir Edward Heath's speech against the reintroduction of hanging. David Cameron selected a speech by Duff Cooper (to whom he is distantly related) opposing appeasement in 1938.

Ken Clarke, Lord Heseltine and Sir John Major all chose Geoffrey (Lord) Howe's call for Margaret (Lady) Thatcher to resign.

Ann Widdecombe and Denis (now Lord) Healey were both courageous enough to choose a speech by Enoch Powell. Miss Widdecombe's preferred speech argued against embryonic research, while Lord Healey picked Brigadier Powell's 1959 excoriation of British brutality at the Hola camp in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau emergency. Lord Healey concludes that Enoch Powell was "far from being the racist bigot".

In keeping with flagrant disregard for political correctness, David Blunkett singled out Oswald Mosley's speech on the economic crisis in 1930!

Most amusingly of all, Dennis Skinner felt that the most noteworthy piece of parliamentary oratory of the last one hundred years came from the member for Bolsover - one Dennis Skinner - in a filibuster against opponents of stem cell research. It's a curious phenomenon that this national treasure can do such a good impression of an insubstantial, boorish egomaniac.

What speech would you choose?

Tom Greeves


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