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Geoffrey Bing

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Geoffrey Henry Cecil Bing, CMG,[1] (born 24 July 1909 in Craigavad, Northern Ireland; † 24 April 1977 in London) was a British lawyer and politician (Labour Party). He was a member of the House of Commons between 1945 and 1955, and Attorney General of independent Ghana between 1957 and 1961.

Life

Bing was born the son of an Anglican clergyman and school founder[2] in the Civil Parish of Holywood in Northern Ireland. The family spent some time in China, and Geoffrey Bing attended Rockport School and Tunbridge Grammar School. In 1931 he graduated from Lincoln College, University of Oxford, with a degree in history, and was a “Jane Eliza Procter Visiting Fellow” at Princeton University in the United States between 1932 and 1933. From the Inner Temple, Bing was admitted as a barrister in 1934. It was during this time that he met his future wife Christian Frances Blois, who was involved with the ultra-left newspaper The Week. This gave him the impetus to investigate human rights abuses in fascist countries. He supported prisoners there and joined the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. As early as the 1935 Congress of the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission (IPPC) in Berlin, Bing strongly condemned the Nazi penal system and anti-Semitism. He was considered a “left-winger” and belonged to both the Fabian Society and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.[3] During World War II, Bing served in the Royal Corps of Signals between 1941 and 1943, attaining the rank of major. After graduating from the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU), the Briton took part in parachute tests. During the African campaign, Bing was wounded; he was also mentioned in dispatches.

In 1935 Bing had joined the Labour Party, and in late May or early June 1945 he was nominated by the party in the Hornchurch (London) constituency for the British House of Commons election. The political situation in the London borough was considered unstable and only three other candidates stood in the same constituency: Colonel John Vaizey (Conservative), Norman Clarke Jones (Liberal), and well-known death penalty opponent Violet Van der Elst as an independent.[3] Bing won the constituency with about 56 per cent of the votes cast,[4] in both the 1950 and 1951 elections, he narrowly defeated Conservative James Wentworth Day.[5] In the May 1955 House of Commons election, Bing lost his seat to Godfrey Lagden and retired from Parliament after ten years of membership of the House of Commons. Early in his parliamentary tenure, Bing was briefly appointed as Whip (whip-in) to the Attlee government, but was soon regarded as “the rampant leader of a small group of radicals who were never fully trusted by their colleagues and were known as the ‘Bing Boys'”[6]. A native of Northern Ireland, Bing advocated Irish unity as a member of the Friends of Ireland, supported nationalist rights in Northern Ireland, and unsuccessfully lobbied for laws there to prevent discrimination and gerrymandering. In 1950 Bing published his successful pamphlet John Bull’s Other Island, the same year he was also appointed Crown Counsel (QC).

Under Kwame Nkrumah, the Prime Minister of the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast, Bing served locally as his advisor on constitutional law from 1956, and was instrumental in negotiating the terms for independence,[7] which finally took place in March 1957. Following the dismissal of George Paterson as the country’s Attorney General, Bing assumed that role between August 7, 1957 and August 29, 1961[8] and was responsible for much of the drafting of the legislation. Subsequently, the Briton again became legal advisor to Nkrumah, who in the meantime had been elected president. After Ghana had increasingly become a one-party state, Nkrumah and his confidants were overthrown in a military coup on 24 February 1966 and replaced by the National Liberation Council. After a brief imprisonment, Bing was expelled from the country on 24 March 1966 and therefore returned to England. In 1968, Bing published his memoirs under the title Reap the Whirlwind: An account of Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana from 1950 to 1966.[9] In it, he gave an excellent report to the, in his view, almost flawless politics of the “Osagyefo” Nkrumah.[10] After its formation in 1970, Bing worked for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) as an unofficial adviser on constitutional matters, and between 1970 and 1974 he was a consultant to the Irish Academic Press for parliamentary publications. A few weeks before his death at the age of 67, Bing again visited Ghana, which was by then ruled by the Supreme Military Council under General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

Bing was married between 1940 and 1955 to Christian “Crystal” Frances Blois (1902-1998), who came from a baronet family. The couple had two sons (Inigo Geoffrey and Richard Daniel).[11][12] In 1956, Bing married his second wife, Eileen Mary Cullen (1919-2010)[13]; from this marriage came two more children.[6]

Web links

Individual references

  1. Charles Mosley (ed.): Burke’s Peerage: Baronetage & Knightage ( vol. 1), 107th edition. Burke’s Peerage & Gentry, Stokesley 2003, ISBN 0-9711966-2-1, p. 402.
  2. Rockport School: our history. In: rockportschool.com, retrieved 10 September 2020.
  3. a b Jonathan Schneer: Labour’s Conscience: the Labour Left, 1945-51. George Allen & Unwin, London 1988, ISBN 0-04-942193-X, pp. 303-304 (online).
  4. F. W. S. Craig: British parliamentary election results 1918-1949. Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1969, ISBN 0-900178-01-9, p. 353(online).
  5. The Times Guide to the House of Commons of the vintages 1950 and 1951. Times Books, London 1950 and 1951.
  6. a b Obituary: Geoffrey Bing – Former Attorney-General of Ghana. In: The Times, 25 April 1977, p. 18.
  7. David Owusu-Ansah: Historical Dictionary of Ghana, 4th edition. Rowman & Littlefield, Plymouth 2014, ISBN 978-0-8108-7242-4, p. 69.
  8. Past Ministers. In: mojagd.gov.gh, retrieved 10 September 2020.
  9. Reap the Whirlwind: An account of Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana from 1950 to 1966. MacGibbon & Kee, London 1968, ISBN 0261620096.
  10. Tibor Szamuely: Who sowed it? In: The Spectator, 31 May 1968, p. 15(online).
  11. Major Geoffrey Henry Cecil Bing. In: thepeerage.com, retrieved 10 September 2020.
  12. Crystal (Christian) Frances Bing (Blois – Hardy). In: billiongraves.co.uk, retrieved 10 September 2020.
  13. Eileen Bing-Basden Obituary. In: legacy.com, retrieved 10 September 2020.