Yesterday, local people met in High Wycombe town centre for the unveiling of our historic Red Lion after its renovation. I was absolutely delighted to see it in such magnificent condition.
I truncated my remarks a little but here is my intended speech:
We meet today on St George’s Day, the traditional birthday of Shakespeare, to unveil a statue which reminds us that Wycombe is an important historic place in the life of our country.
This is a place of Disraeli and of Churchill – great men who are remembered for furthering great causes.
Disraeli’s Reform Act of 1867 immediately doubled the election franchise in this country and soon ensured the enfranchisement of all male heads of household. We may look in horror at the failure of the Act to extend the vote to every adult, but it was nevertheless a leap in the cause of democracy, the right of the voter to choose their government.
After leading our country to defeat “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime”. Churchill filled this place with people, and he deserved to.
And by the way, when complimented about the size of the crowds who would turn out to hear him speak, he said,
I always remember that if, instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.
A liberal who became a Conservative, Churchill probably did more than any other to preserve the great institutions of our free and democratic country.
Perhaps he might have agreed with Disraeli, who said here in High Wycombe,
I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad.
In Disraeli and Churchill, we see that it is necessary from time to time in the course of the life of our magnificent country to take up great causes. We might also consider local man John Hampden, one of the five whose unlawful arrest set in train events which established by force of arms the principle that this country may not be governed without the consent of Parliament.
It is a remarkable thing that institutions which seem natural and spontaneous in our own country, being products of circumstances over almost a thousand years which were not planned or foreseen, are institutions which in other places are recent and artificial: institutions which have sometimes been cast aside in ways which they have not here.
All that leads me to what I shall remember when I see this statue.
Ours is a country which, though we may be quiet and unassuming, is strong, decent and civilised. We are a country which believes in things and sees them through and in consequence has set the highest standards of freedom, Parliamentary democracy and the rule of law for the whole world.
I will always remember when I see this statute that the same roots of our liberty remain strong and that we do not yet know what great branches this tree of prosperity will bring forth.
Finally, we joined in thanking the Bucks Free Press for leading the campaign with the dedicated support of the High Wycombe Society, then Hudson’s and Lillyfee Studios on the removal and restoration of the lion. Master carver Colin Mantripp received a particularly huge round of applause.
Wycombe Heritage and Arts Trust will now take responsibility for funding the maintenance of the lion. I will promote details of how to donate when I receive them.