Published: 15 March, 2012
by JOHN GULLIVER
THAT MP with a temper, Eric Joyce, isn’t the only one who has engaged in fisticuffs in the Strangers Bar.
Another man who had graced the benches in the Commons once told me of the day he had done a bit of ring work at the same bar.
He was the elegant John Platts-Mills QC, then in his 90s, who had been MP for Finsbury in the late 1940s.
We were talking in the comfy front room of his pretty flat on the top floor of his Chambers in the Temple where I was picking through his colourful life.
Platts-Mills, who had been making a name for himself at the bar, volunteered at the start of the last war to work as a miner in the north where, in his leisure time, he honed his boxing skills from university days.
Then he was picked by Churchill to work with our embassy in Moscow because of his left-wing contacts.
These helped to get him selected for parliament, but he ran foul of the Labour leadership, along with several other lefties on the benches, and was suspended from the party.
His day of action at the bar came in the late 1940s.
“I was standing behind Willie Gallacher, a Communist MP at the bar when a Tory picked on the little man,” Platts-Mills told me. “I couldn’t stand any form of bullying, especially to a little man like Gallacher, so I just knocked the Tory to the ground.’
He spoke in a deadpan voice.
Considering Platts-Mills had been a successful heavyweight in the amateur ring, I almost felt the blow he must have landed on the Conservative MP.
I gather he lay unconscious on the floor for sometime.
A moment or two later, his junior came into the room to go over a case Platts-Mills was conducting the next day at Kingston crown court. Platts-Mills made notes, ever alert, still in a pin-striped suit.
It was an odd afternoon because after his junior left, Platts-Mills, who had a bad cold, asked me to make him a cup of tea.
I sorted through his untidy kitchen, facing piles of unwashed cups and plates, found the tea, and made the cuppa.
I could see he was in a bad way and got worried about him. Suddenly, the responsibility of caring for a sick man in his 90s made me ask him for a phone number of one of his sons, Barney.
I rang him and told him to come over straightaway to take his father to the doctor.
A couple of years later, Platts-Mills, who was a leading criminal and civil barrister, died in 2001.