- Leo Abse
name = Leo Abse
constituency_MP = Pontypool
predecessor = Daniel Granville West
successor = Constituency Abolished
term_start = 1958
constituency_MP2 = Torfaen
predecessor2 = New Constituency
successor2 = Paul Murphy
9 June 1983
11 June 1987
birth_date = Birth date|1917|04|22
death_date = death date and age|2008|8|19|1917|4|22
Charing Cross Hospital, London, United Kingdom
nationality = British
party = Labour
London School of Economics
Leopold Abse (
22 April 1917– 19 August 2008) [cite news |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article4573641.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2 |publisher= The Times|title=Leo Abse: MP who fought to reform homosexuality and divorce laws |date= 21 August, 2008] was a Welsh lawyer, politician and gay rights campaigner. He was a Welsh Labour Member of Parliamentfor nearly 30 years, and was noted for promoting private member's bills to decriminalise male homosexual relations and liberalise the divorcelaws. Following his retirement from Parliament he wrote a number of books about politics based on his interest in psychoanalysis. In July 2008 he set-up a [http://www.leo-abse.com personal website] to provide a summary of his life and work.
Family and background
Leo Abse was one of the sons of Rudolf Abse, a
Jewishsolicitor and cinema owner who lived in Cardiff. Abse's younger brother Dannie Abseis a well-known poet; their older brother Wilfred Abse(1915-2005) was an eminent psychoanalyst. Abse attended Howard Gardens High School in Cardiff and then the London School of Economics, where he studied law. Having joined the Labour Party in 1934, he clandestinely visited Spainduring the closing months of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article4573641.ece Times obituary]
During the Second World War Abse served in the
Royal Air Force. He was in Cairoin 1944 when some of the British military personnel stationed there set up a " Forces Parliament" in which they debated the structure of society they wanted to see in the post-war world. Abse's idealistic left-wing views were fully in tune with the majority opinion among the lower ranks at its meetings, but the existence of the "Parliament" disturbed the senior officers. When Abse moved a motion supporting nationalizationof the Bank of Englandhe was arrested and the Forces Parliament was forcibly dissolved.
After the end of the war Abse set up in practice as a solicitor in Cardiff. In 1951 he established his own law firm, Leo Abse & Cohen, which eventually grew to be the biggest in the city. He was also elected as Chairman of Cardiff Labour Party for two years from 1951, giving up the post when he was elected to Cardiff City Council. Abse fought the then-safe Conservative seat of Cardiff North in the 1955 general election, but was defeated.
Daniel Granville West, the Labour MP for Pontypool and, like Abse, a solicitor, was awarded one of the first life peerages in 1958. Unusually for a town in the South Wales valleys at that time, the National Union of Mineworkerswas not in control of the nomination of West's successor as Labour candidate, since Pontypool was a centre of the railway industry. Abse won the candidacy and then won the seat at the by-election.
In the House of Commons Abse swiftly acquired a reputation for independence of spirit. He made a point of dressing flamboyantly on Budget day, and liked to drop references from Freudian
psychotherapyinto his speeches. Although his abilities might have taken him to high office, Abse remained a backbench MP. This factor, together with the fact that he had a safe seat, freed him from the restrictions that prevented most other MPs from taking up controversial subjects.
In 1963 Abse was selected in third place in the ballot for
Private Member's Bills and introduced the Matrimonial Causes Bill, which simplified and made easier the legal process of divorce.
In 1957 the
Wolfenden Reporthad recommended that the law be changed to legalise consenting male homosexual sex, but the government had taken no action. Abse began to promote a Bill to put Wolfenden's recommendations into law in February 1962. He kept pressing the issue and, after Humphry Berkeley(Conservative MP for Lancaster) lost his seat in the 1966 general election, Abse became the main sponsor for the legalisation. Although with the Labour landslide of 1966 there was a majority for the Bill, it was still vulnerable but Abse persuaded Roy Jenkinsto give the measure government time, which eventually saw the Bill through onto the statute book.
Abse's views on homosexuality were strongly influenced by his knowledge of psychotherapy. He argued that an obsession with the question of punishment of homosexuals "has hitherto prompted us to avoid the real challenge of preventing little boys from growing up to be adult homosexuals. Surely, what we should be preoccupied with is the question of how we can, if it is possible, reduce the number of faulty males in the community".Fact|date=August 2008 Abse put his arguments in this way partly to ensure that those MPs who were inclined to vote for the Bill did not feel they were endangering their masculinity but mostly because he had a view that "those who do not procreate are deprived or stunted" (the analysis of
Antony Grey, who was leading the lobbying efforts of the Homosexual Law Reform Societyand worked closely with him).Fact|date=August 2008
Six Day Warin 1967 Abse made a passionate attack on those Labour MPs who had supported the Arab cause.Fact|date=August 2008 In 1968 he was appointed to a Home Officeadvisory committee on the penal system. He was elected Chairman of the group of Welsh Labour MPs in 1971.
In 1973 Abse requested that the government ban the rock singer
Alice Cooperand his group from performing in England, claiming that Alice was "peddling the culture of the concentration camp". Abse claimed: "Pop is one thing, anthems of necrophiliaare quite another". [Source: booklet of "The life and crimes of Alice Cooper" 4 CD box set.]
Abse was chosen to be Chairman of a select committee on
abortionfrom 1975 to 1977. His report advocated restrictions on abortion, including a lowering of the time limit within which abortion was legal from 28 weeks. He fought in the House of Commons for the enactment of his committee's recommendations, and continued the fight in 1980 when the Conservative MP John Corrieproposed a Bill along similar lines: Abse refused to compromise on a limit of 24 weeks.
Abse was an opponent of
devolutionwhen it was proposed in the late 1970s. He also proposed a separate referendumon whether the Shetland Islandsought to be part of a devolved Scotland. Abse was briefly Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee when it was first set up, but resigned in November 1981. One of the reasons why he opposed devolution was that he thought some in Wales, whom he called "fanatics", wanted to use it to promote the use of the Welsh language. He opposed in particular proposals for criminal juries comprising only Welsh speakers, and described Welsh-language television as an "expensive farce" and a "gravy train".Fact|date=August 2008
Abse added to his reputation for taking maverick stances by strongly urging that British forces be withdrawn from
Northern Ireland. He opposed nuclear powerand nuclear weapons, and criticised Margaret Thatcherfor insisting that Argentinaunconditionally surrender over the Falkland Islands. However, he supported British membership of the European Communities. His support for liberal divorce laws led him to propose a new 'child-centred' divorce reform in the early 1980s; the Bill was piloted by Martin Stevens, Conservative MP for Fulham.
Later political and literary career
Abse was elected for the renamed seat of Torfaen in 1983, but retired from Parliament in 1987. The first of the books he then wrote, "Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice" (1989), is a "psycho-biography" of Margaret Thatcher, taking its title from the observation that while Mrs Thatcher frequently referred to her father, she claimed not to have had anything to say to her mother from the age of 15. In "Wotan, My Enemy" (1994) Abse took a psychoanalytic approach to explaining the origin of British hostility to
Germanyand the idea of the European Union. In "The Man behind the Smile: Tony Blair and the Politics of Perversion" (1996) Abse highlighted some of the aspects of Tony Blair's that were later to be cited by Blair's opponents on the left. A revised edition, "Tony Blair: The Man who Lost His Smile" (2003), was published in the United States). In this edition Abse took the opportunity to claim that he had paid off a blackmailer who had been targeting a fellow Welsh MP George Thomas (Speaker of the House of Commons from 1976 to 1983), on the basis of Thomas's (closeted) homosexuality. Finally, in " Fellatio, Masochism, Politics and Love" (1997) Abse drew attention to the fact that fellatio had been unspoken of a generation before but had since come to be seen as an essential part of casual sexual relationships. He analysed the tendency for men to engage in risky behaviour by placing their trust in women whom they barely know and linked it to political developments. The book was published in the United States in 2000 shortly after the scandal of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinskyhad been revealed.
* "Private Member" (Jonathan Cape, London, 1973)
* "Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice" (Jonathan Cape, London, 1989)
* "Wotan, My Enemy" (Robson Books, London, 1994)
* "The Man behind the Smile" (Robson Books, London, 1996)
* "Fellatio, Masochism, Politics and Love" (Robson Books, London, 1997)
* "Tony Blair: The Man who lost his Smile" (Robson Books, London, 2003)
* 'Leo Abse' in 'Parliamentary Profiles A-D' by
Andrew Roth(Parliamentary Profiles Services Ltd, London, 1984)
* 'Peers, Queers and Commons' by Stephen Jeffery-Poulter (Routledge, London, 1991)
* 'Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation' by Antony Grey (Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1992)
* [https://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article632537.ece Leo Abse and his brother Dannie] - a joint interview in The Times November 2006
* [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/leo-abse-labour-mp-whose-parliamentary-bills-helped-liberalise-british-society-904024.html Obituary in The Independent] by
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article4573641.ece Times obit, August 2008]
* [http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/08/leo-abse---backbenchers-backbencher.html Paul Flynn MP: Leo Abse - backbenchers’ backbencher - Chutzpah and contentment August 2008]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/gayrights/story/0,,2109785,00.html Coming out of the dark ages] (article from
The Observer, 24 June 2007, which includes an interview with Abse)
* [http://respectance.com/Leo_Abse/memorial Leo Abse Memorial]
* [http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=2746 Socialist Unity: Remember the god solidier, August 2008]
NAME= Abse, Leo
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Abse, Leopold
Author, politician, Member of Parliament
DATE OF BIRTH= 1917-04-22
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH= 2008-08-19
PLACE OF DEATH=
Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK
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Look at other dictionaries:
Leo Abse — Leo Abse, né en 1917 et mort en 2008, est une personnalité politique anglaise, qui a proposé une loi décriminalisant l homosexualité masculine. Il fut soutenu par celle qui devint par la suite Premier ministre, Margaret Thatcher. Notes et… … Wikipédia en Français
Leo Abse — Leopold Abse (* 22. April 1917 in Cardiff; † 19. August 2008 in London) war ein walisischer Anwalt, Politiker (Labour Party), Aktivist für die Rechte von Homosexuellen und Autor. Karriere Abse war fast 30 Jahre walisischer Labour Abgeordneter. Er … Deutsch Wikipedia
ABSE, DANNIE — (1923– ), English poet. Abse was born in Cardiff. After four years in the Royal Air Force in World War II he qualified as a doctor. From 1947 to 1954 he edited and published the magazine Poetry and Poverty. Although his work included fiction and… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Abse — is a Welsh surname, and may refer to: *Dannie Abse (born 1923), Welsh writer and physician *Joan Abse (1926 2005), English art historian *Leo Abse (born 1917), Welsh politician *Wilfred Abse (1914 2005), Welsh psychiatristabse (various case and… … Wikipedia
Abse — ist der Familienname von: Dannie Abse (* 1923), britischer Autor und Dichter Leo Abse (1917–2008), walisischer Anwalt, Politiker und Autor Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben Wort beze … Deutsch Wikipedia
Abse, Leo — (b. 1917) British politician. Born in Cardiff, he is the brother of Dannie Abse. He served as a member of parliament for Pontypool (1958 83), and Torfaen (1983 7) … Dictionary of Jewish Biography
Leopold Abse — (* 22. April 1917 in Cardiff; † 19. August 2008 in London) war ein walisischer Anwalt, Politiker, Aktivist für die Rechte von Homosexuellen und Autor. Karriere Abse war fast 30 Jahre walisischer Labour Abgeordneter. Er war bekannt für seinen… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Daniel Abse — Dannie Abse (* 22. September 1923 als Daniel Abse in Cardiff, Wales) ist ein britischer Autor und Dichter. Abse studierte nach erfolgreichem Abschluss der Schule in seiner Geburtsstadt an der University of South Wales und am King s College in… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Wilfred Abse — David Wilfred Abse (1914 – 4 November 2005) was a Welsh psychiatrist. Abse was born in Cardiff, a brother of the poet Dannie Abse (born 1923) and the politician Leo Abse (1917 2008). An eminent psychoanalyst, Abse spent the greater part of his… … Wikipedia
Dannie Abse — Daniel Abse, better known as Dannie Abse (born 22 September 1923), is a Welsh poet. Contents 1 Early years 2 Career as Poet 3 Bibliography … Wikipedia