FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – LORD ALF MORRIS – A PASSIONATE CARING MAN WITH A COMMITMENT
It was with much sadness that I received news of Lord Morris’ passing through the media today.
I held Lord Morris in very high esteem, and that was in no small part due to his un-erring ability to take time to speak with people whom he felt he could help. It was in this connection that I developed an even greater respect for a man who was so instrumental in changing the face of the UK in its attitude to disabled people. He was a true champion for Rights for Disabled People and a staunch supporter of campaigns by Thalidomide impaired people.
Those of you who have read my tribute to Lord Jack Ashley, will know that in 2008, I was commissioned by BBC Radio Wales to present a radio documentary on Thalidomide 50 years on. As part of the documentary I was keen to speak with Lord Morris, and through his office in the House of Lords, suitable arrangements were made to meet with him.
You may recall I previously spoke of meeting Jack and of our “Abbey Road moment”. That was in fact the same day as I met with Lord Morris (although we had met on a number of occasions in the early 1990s whilst campaigning for the rights for Disabled People). However, unlike Lord Ashley, we did not zip around the corridors of power on scooters, but we were taken through those imposing corridors by Lord Morris to a Committee Room, where he gave a passionate interview about his involvement in the Thalidomide story.
Before we got to the Committee Room, we passed many eminent members of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. I was struck by the genuine sincerity with which Lord Morris was greeted. If I were to try and paraphrase this, it would be that he was greeted with the affection afforded to the Headmasterly character “Mr. Chips”.
Lord Morris was quietly spoken, but commanded an air of authority and respect that is virtually impossible to replicate in today’s political world.
Lord Morris will be remembered as a man of integrity, and man of honour. Most of all he will be remembered as a man who, despite rising from abject poverty to the rank of Elder Statesman, never forgot his solid northern roots. It is my genuine belief that his understanding of being “ordinary” allowed so many people to warm to such a fine and dignified man.
Our current politicians have much to learn from people like Alf Morris, and his passing marks the end of an era – of caring and compassionate parliamentarians – that we should mourn alongside the passing of a fine orator, who was revered and respected for all his good works and commitment to social justice.