IT’S a prestigious honour only a select group of people in the last century have been given.
Now former Portsmouth North MP Syd Rapson is in line to receive the Freedom of the City in recognition of his work for the community and sterling conduct since leaving office.
He stood up for the people of Portsmouth, he worked hard for the people and he chose his battles wisely.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
The award was last handed to former Pompey boss Harry Redknapp and the side who won the FA Cup in 2008.
It arises from a medieval practice granting respected citizens freedom from slavery – and while the title does not come with special privileges today the tradition of crowning someone a freeman or an organisation of freemen lives on.
And city leaders Donna Jones and John Ferrett have decided Mr Rapson – who represented Portsmouth in parliament from 1997 to 2005 – deserves to be next in line.
They will put forward the proposal, suggested by Mr Rapson’s family, at a meeting of the full council tomorrow.
Cllr Jones, Tory council leader, said: ‘Syd Rapson is a fantastic, amazing example of how an MP can and should conduct themselves.
‘He stood up for the people of Portsmouth, he worked hard for the people and he chose his battles wisely.
‘Giving the Freedom of the City to anybody is one of the highest accolades we can give.
‘Their conduct, particularly after their term of office is over, is a key sign as to whether or not we should be doing it. Syd still attends council meetings, attends all civic functions and takes his position as an alderman of the city very seriously.
Mr Rapson, 71, is a life-long member of the Labour Party and was first elected to the city council as a councillor in 1971.
Cllr Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘He has been a great representative for the city. He has also been a huge servant to the city, and put the interests of the city and of the country first, rather than his own interests.’
Mr Rapson led calls for former Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock to give up his post in light of allegations made about his personal life. The pair had been friends for more than four decades.
Others who have received the honour since 2000 are; Honorary Alderman Ian Gibson, Milan Mandaric, Sir Alfred Blake and News gardening columnist Brian Kidd.
Portsmouth first awarded the Freedom of the City to Baron Macnaghten in 1895. It came after an Act was passed in 1885 allowing councils to give out honorary freedoms.