Today, as every school child ought to know, is St George's Day, something that, according to Ed West, became a matter for celebration in the 1990s and then for purely commercial reasons. True, to some extent, but a little unfair. The Scouts, for instance, always celebrated the day. St George remains the Patron Saint of several countries and organizations - in fact, he is a very busy sort of saint.
Many Patronages of Saint George exist around the world, including: Georgia, England, Egypt, Bulgaria, Aragon, Catalonia, Romania, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Iraq, Israel, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia, as well as the cities of Genoa, Amersfoort, Beirut, Botoşani, Drobeta Turnu-Severin, Timişoara, Fakiha, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg im Breisgau, Kragujevac, Kumanovo, Lebanon, Ljubljana, Pérouges, Pomorie, Preston, Qormi, Rio de Janeiro, Lod, Lviv, Barcelona, Moscow and Victoria, as well as of the Scout Movement and a wide range of professions, organizations and disease sufferers.April 23 is also the birth- and death- day of William Shakespeare. Actually, nobody is too sure on which day he was born but he was baptized on the 26th so it is fair to assume that he was born shortly before that. The parallel of his birth and death has always pleased people.
April 23 also happens to be the day W. J. M. Turner claimed as his birthday but there is no real evidence for that. He was baptized on May 14 and that is all we know definitely. Still, it would be pleasant to think that the greatest English playwright and one of the greatest English artists were both born on St George's Day.
An even more interesting anniversary is a round one. We are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the real founding of the 1922 Committee, a little emasculated recently, but still something of a fighting force in the Conservative Party. As Lord Norton of Louth explains here:
The 1922 Committee derives its name from the fact that it was formed by some MPs who were first elected in 1922. Led by the MP for Lowestoft, Sir Gervais Rentoul, they decided to create a body ‘for the purpose of mutual co-operation and assistance in dealing with political and parliamentary questions, and in order to enable new Members to take a more active interest and part in Parliamentary life’. As new MPs, they had little knowledge of Parliament. There was no party structure, other than the whips, within the House to assist. The new Tory Members showed feelings, in Rentoul’s words, of ‘ineffectiveness and bewilderment’.Many things to celebrate, then. You will forgive me, however, for putting up the most obvious sequence for this day.
A preliminary meeting was held on 18 April 1923, at which Rentoul explained the purpose of having a Committee, and the Members then adjourned until 23 April. At this second meeting, the principles on which the body was founded were agreed and the meeting elected officers and an Executive Committee. Rentoul was elected chairman. It was also agreed to meet each week – on Mondays at 6.00 p.m. – when the House was sitting. The first of the scheduled meetings was addressed by the Chief Whip, Leslie Wilson, who offered his assistance and that of his colleagues. The Committee also set up a series of Sub-Committees, though these were superseded in the next Parliament by formal backbench Committees set up by the Party Leader.