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Earl Grey and the Promise of Reform

Writer and sociologist Tom Shakespeare discusses former prime minister Charles Grey and the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Five Essays with new perspectives on the history of the North East.

Writer and sociologist Tom Shakespeare looks back at Charles Grey and the Great Reform Act of 1832. Grey was a leading figure in the North East and today his monument stands high above the centre of Newcastle. He became Whig Prime Minister in November 1830, got rid of the rotten boroughs, and took a major step towards modern parliamentary democracy. Following the recent expenses scandal, and with electoral reform on the coalition's agenda, Tom Shakespeare uses this historical comparison to ask: When does one of the oldest parliamentary systems in the world feel ready to reform itself?

Recorded in front of an audience at the Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking festival of ideas 2010.

Producer: Zahid Warley.

15 minutes

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