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George Thomas
The Right Honourable Thomas George Thomas, 1st Viscount Tonypandy (29 January 1909 - 22 September 1997) was a British Labour politician.

The second son of a Welsh miner, he was born in Port Talbot, and raised by his mother in the village of Trealaw in Wales, just across the river from the town of Tonypandy. At the time, a good education was seen as the best means of escape from the valleys and he was chosen to attend Tonypandy Grammar School. After attending University College, Southampton, he worked as a teacher in both London and Cardiff.

Elected to Parliament in the Attlee landslide of 1945, he held the seats of Cardiff Central (1945-50) and Cardiff West (1950-83) until his retirement from the Commons in 1983.

He was one of the first on the scene of the Aberfan disaster, which occurred while he was a Minister at the Welsh Office. As Secretary of State for Wales from 1968 to 1970, he presided over the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.

During Thomas's term of office as Speaker of the House of Commons from 1976 to 1983, the first broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings brought him unprecedented public attention, but he proved more impartial than party colleagues had expected. In 1983 he retired and was created Viscount Tonypandy, one of the last creations of a hereditary peerage. Thomas was always opposed to Welsh nationalism: one of his final political acts was his public opposition to the Blair government's devolution proposals of 1997. It was during this year that he also gave his very high profile endorsement of Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party, believing that the European Union was compromising the sovereignty of Parliament. He also wrote the Foreword to Adrian Hilton's book on this issue, The Principality and Power of Europe, the only book he endorsed as a Peer, and the last before he died.

After Tonypandy's death, a former Welsh Labour MP, Leo Abse, created a controversy by alleging that Thomas had been homosexual and had been the victim of blackmail for this reason. Abse, the MP who introduced the private member's bill which decriminalised homosexuality in Britain, discussed this incident in his book Tony Blair: The Man Behind the Smile. He said that Thomas had paid money to blackmailers to keep his "gay lifestyle" secret. Abse said that he had once lent Thomas 800 to pay off blackmailers.

Throughout his career he remained a deeply religious man, and was a prominent member of the Methodist church. Known by the nickname "Tommy Twice" (from his full name), his Welsh cries of "Order! Order!" as Speaker were familiar to a generation of Britons.
 

Bust of George Thomas in the Marble Hall of Cardiff City Hall


 

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