On being 60
16 Jul 2002

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Extracts from a short speech given on the occasion of my 60th Birthday

"The Youngs are not actually serious politicians. They have dabbled in politics; they are really public servants – Admirals, Governor Generals, diplomats, spies, civil servants. Nor, sadly, are they wealth creators, though I have high hopes of my children.

Early on, there were signs of enterprise. In 1768, the first Sir George removed a mummy from an ancient burying place on the Peak of Teneriffe, but on arrival back in England he gave it to the Library of Trinity College Cambridge, where it gets a mention in a book called “Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments.” As a family, we are solid, reliable,

Perhaps somewhat cautious. The eldest son has had the same Christian name for seven generations. We have lived in the same place for over 200 years. A new tradition is emerging whereby the eldest son knocks down and rebuilds the house he inherited from his father.

Looking at the family records, there is an appetite for public service.
In 1787 the father of the first Baronet – Admiral Sir George Young - was serving in the Navy and we have a letter dated October 14th 1787. “From the present appearance of War, I am induced to request, you will please to acquaint My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that should such an event take place, I should wish to be employed in a more active situation that that of Commander of the Royal Yacht.”
In 1792, he was examined before the bar of the House of Commons on the African Slave Trade and we are told “gave evidence of its evils, not less valuable because temperately worded.”

My grandfather, the 4th Baronet, literally flirted with the House of Commons, as he married the daughter of a Clerk of this House. He stood for Parliament between the wars, under the compelling slogan “George Young is a local man.”
As he was standing in South Bucks and he lived in Berkshire, there was some poetic licence there. His election address boasts of his education at Eton, his noble birth and the ancestral home. This may have been a mistake as he was standing for the Labour Party – he was perhaps anticipating new Labour some 60 years ahead of his time. His brother Hilton joined a more suitable Party, was elected and served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, a post which I held in 1995.
On the maternal side, my grandfather was a County Councillor in Kent after a diplomatic career. A political gene filtered down to me.

I became interested in politics when Tom Driberg came to address the Political Society at Eton. I only discovered later why Tom Driberg was interested in addressing adolescent boys. His talk sparked off some political ambition.

My first elective office was at Christ Church, some 40 years ago, where I was elected Food Member, unopposed. The job involved meeting once a week with the Steward and the Chef to discuss the quality of the food in Hall. There was a book in the JCR in which undergraduates wrote their comments, such as “I did not enjoy Charlotte Pudding last night” and I would write a reply “Why don’t you stop seeing her.”

I was lucky with my political career; lucks to have got on to Lambeth Borough Council in 1968; to have got onto the GLC in 1970; and into Parliament in 1974 for Ealing Acton. And lucky to have got adopted for NW Hants when Ealing Acton disappeared. I have been lucky to have spent nearly half my life in the House, and of that, half as a government Minister. More important, I have been lucky with my wife, children and grandchildren, relatives and friends."
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