On Wednesday in the House of Lords, Charles Moore who is now the Lord Moore of Etchingham gave his Maiden Speech. He made a very good comment in some respects for Sussex but sadly spoke with a lack of clarity of the whole of Sussex. He was referring to the poverty that exists in parts of East Sussex and indeed he is correct to do so. The widespread suggestions that many people make that Sussex is wealthy because we are part of the South East is very much dependent on which areas of Sussex one visits. However sadly Charles focused only on East Sussex and it is very clear that there are poor communities in West Sussex and also in Brighton and Hove. Let us hope we can persuade him to spend some time in other parts of Sussex or indeed perhaps he will listen to other people about this theme. As it happened, later in the debate about the Election Bill, the Bishop of Coventry stated “My Lords, I too join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Moore, for his subtle and penetrating speech. I do so as someone who originates from Sussex, albeit the western part.” so perhaps that is a good first response, although to be fair Horsham where Christopher Cocksworth was born is not the poorest part of West Sussex. Anyway here is part of the speech from Charles Moore:
I come from the county of Sussex. Nowadays Sussex is regarded as rich, but our eastern part of the county has traditionally been poor. A few years ago, the Tatler magazine published a satirical illustrated map of Sussex; our little rural patch was marked by a large cactus and the words “Social Desert”. We felt perversely proud of that. Even today, my birthplace, Hastings, is well known for areas of persistent poverty. Robert Tressell’s famous Edwardian socialist novel about poverty, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, is set in Hastings. It is subtitled “A season in Hell”. I maintain that modern Hastings has many glimpses of heaven, but problems do remain.
Hastings helps explain my interest in the Bill that we are debating today. In 1844, my great-great-grandfather, Robert Ross Rowan Moore, stood there as the free trade, anti-Corn Law candidate. In those days, the fishermen of Hastings did not have the vote, but they did support free trade. By law, no candidate could be elected unless present in the constituency on polling day, so the fishermen kindly proposed to kidnap my ancestor’s rival, the Tory candidate, and take him out to sea. Sadly, Robert Moore refused the fishermen’s offer and therefore lost the election, but my family still possesses a roll which names the
“one hundred and seventy-four honest and independent electors who voted for Robert R. Rowan Moore and free trade.”
In those days there was no secret ballot. Indeed, that great liberal John Stuart Mill was actually opposed to a secret ballot. He believed that honest men—and it was only men in those days—should publicly declare their allegiance. He was frightened of the corruption that goes with secrecy. As the 19th century progressed, however, people realised that only a secret ballot could prevent intimidation by powerful interests. In 1872 the Ballot Act was introduced. All of us in your Lordships’ House are disfranchised in general elections, so we can look at the matter disinterestedly, I think. I am sure that we all agree that the secret ballot was the right way to go. It was the key means of obtaining the universal franchise which lies at the heart of the development of our modern parliamentary democracy.