Laureates

Apart from Geoffrey Chaucer, elected as the MP for Kent in 1386 (whose own son Thomas sat for Oxfordshire on and off between 1401 and 1421), the only poet laureate and member of parliament was Henry Pye.
 
Pye sat for Berkshire (1784- 90) and took up the laureateship after William Hayley turned it down on Thomas Warton’s death. He is often cited as the worst laureate ever, but he had at least one fan, in the Commons – William Mitford, the Tory MP for Newport, Bere Alston and New Romney intermittently between 1785 and 1818. Pye dedicated a sonnet to him:
 
. . . Nor will you, though your
nicer ear retain
What sounds to purest
melody belong,
This tribute from a ruder
bard disdain,
Proud to record your friendship
in his song.

This article first appeared in the 07 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The last days of Nelson Mandela

David Lammy. Photo: Getty
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David Lammy calls for parliament to overturn the EU referendum result

The Labour MP for Tottenham said Britain could "stop this madness through a vote in Parliament".

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, has called on parliament to stop Brexit.

In a statement published on Twitter, he wrote: "Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in Parliament. Our sovereign Parliament needs to now vote on whether we should exit the EU. 

"The referendum was an advisory, non-binding referendum. The Leave campaign's platform has already unravelled and some people wish they hadn't voted to Leave. Parliament now needs to decide whether we should go forward with Brexit, and there should be a vote in Parliament next week. Let us not destroy our economy on the basis of lies and the hubris of Boris Johnson."

Lammy's words follow a petition to re-run the referendum, which has gathered 1.75 million signatures since Friday.

However, the margin of victory in the referendum - more than a million votes - makes it unlikely party leaders would countenance any attempt to derail the Brexit process. On Saturday morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there should be no second referendum. Tory leader David Cameron has also accepted the result, and triggered a leadership election.

It is true, though, that had Britain's EU membership been decided in parliament, rather than by a referendum, there would have been an overwhelming vote to Remain. Just 138 Tory MPs declared for Leave, compared with 185 for Remain. In Labour, just 10 declared for Leave, versus 218 for Remain, while no Lib Dem, Scottish Nationalist, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein or SDLP MPs backed Leave.

Rob Ford, an academic who has studied Ukip voters, said Lammy's call was "utter madness":