Lord Graham of Edmonton
Labour peer and distinguished supporter of Humanism
My faith is in the human spirit and the ability of ordinary people to control their affairs.
Born in 1925, Thomas Edward (Ted) Graham became a Labour Councillor on Enfield Borough Council (1961-68) and then Labour MP for Enfield, Edmonton from 1974 to 83. His political interests include local government, consumer affairs, and the environment, and during his career in the Commons he was a Government Whip (1976-79), an Opposition Whip (1979-81), and Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment (1981-83).
He was raised to the peerage as Baron Graham of Edmonton in 1983, and in the Lords has been Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment, Northern Ireland and Defence (1983-90); Opposition Whip (1983-90); Opposition Spokesperson for National Heritage (Tourism) (1990-95); Opposition Chief Whip (1990-97); Deputy Speaker (1990-97); and Deputy Chair of Committees (1997-2000). In 1987, according to Wikipedia, he was the only Peer in the House of Lords to speak against Lord Halsbury’s Local Government Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill, (which later became the notorious Section 28), seeking to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.
In a debate in the House of Lords on 20/4/07 on “the position in British society of those who profess no religion” he said:
“This kind of debate is valuable for many people—believers and non-believers—because it is being held in a calm atmosphere with the utmost tolerance and respect shown for other views. People have been allowed to say exactly what they want – nothing extreme or too condemnatory. I listened to every speech and, whatever the point of view of the speaker, I was able to agree and disagree with something the speaker said. It has been therapeutic. I am a member of the British Humanist Association, and I heard discrimination against those who support my views that I had not appreciated. That is not to say that they are not correct because, of course, I accept the integrity of the speakers…
I speak as a socialist and someone who believes in the brotherhood of man and in tolerance and fair play. There is no religion in the world, including Christianity, that should not hang its head in shame at the acts of its followers at some time or other. However, we are living in a period when we ought to respect each other.
The noble Baroness,LadyByford, whom I respect very much, said that everyone must have faith. I envy people who have faith because for them it is powerful, personal and precious. I have never been able to embrace that. My faith is in the human spirit and the ability of ordinary people to control their affairs. I do not besmirch or belittle people who think differently. Society needs an examination of the ways in which we can work more closely together. I congratulate my noble friendLordHarrisonon bringing this matter to the attention of this House. Those of us here today know from the media that there is some disquiet about people like me who do not believe in religion but who are religious about respecting the views of others. The Minister would do this House and the country a power of good if she were able to say that by some means or other the exclusion or non-inclusion of those who share my views would be looked at with respect. This debate has done a great service…
If the Minister can help us by saying something about her intentions about a consultation that will be all embracing and will cover people with no religious views, as well as those who have them in the conduct of affairs in this society, we will be very well served.”