Nick Robinson has returned to the radio for a second series of his short portraits of British Prime Ministers and in the list this time is Earl (Charles) Grey, one of the figures I’ve previously highlighted as a forgotten Liberal hero.
Robinson’s piece is history as light entertainment – so it starts off with the connection between Grey and the tea that we now know as Earl Grey and then moves on to his high profile affair before getting stuck into the more serious aspects of his record. But as a quick canter through his life in a style that is illuminating without being academic, it’s a good show.
Grey’s career has many modern echoes – leading his party after years in opposition into power, pushing through a radical political reform program and attacking the sort of personal patronage which he himself had benefited from. Yet he’s all but forgotten.
So if you too have not heard of him or know much about him, a fun way of passing 15 minutes is to listen to the 15 minute show on the iPlayer, which is available until January 1, 2099 (!).
One topic Nick Robinson touches on is how radical, or not, the Great Reform Act really was. This was also one of the subjects of a meeting that I spoke at earlier this year. Whilst I talked about how the current political reforms compare with 1832, the History of Parliament Trust’s Dr Philip Salmon looked at just how great 1832 was. You can listen to that meeting here.
UPDATE: You can also listen to the talk I gave about Grey at an event in the National Liberal Club here.