Naoroji on Britain's crisp currency!
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Naoroji on Britain's crisp currency!

If a think-tank's suggestion is accepted, the first-ever Asian origin MP may be on UK currency notes.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2005 15:32 IST

The image of Dadabhai Naoroji - the first-ever Asian origin MP to enter the House of Commons in 1892 - may soon be printed on British currency notes if an influential Labour party think-tank's recommendation is accepted.

The Fabian Society, which is considered close to Downing Street and holds several conferences and meetings that are attended by senior leaders of the Labour Party, has mooted the idea.

Naoroji was elected for the Liberal Party from Central Finsbury in London in July 1892.

A Parsi, he refused to take the oath in the house on the Bible as he was not a Christian, but was allowed to take oath of office in the name of god on his small book of Avesta. He lost the next election in 1895.

Sunder Katwala, a journalist and general secretary of the Fabian Society, told the media: "Our national symbols should reflect the nation we are today. The design of notes is not set in stone. Just having a debate about whether there should be a new mix of black and white faces on them would be a positive development."

Having images of prominent Asian and Afro-Caribbean people who contributed to British society is one of the recommendations of the society to create a new definition of Britishness.

It is also said to be in favour of getting rid of Florence Nightingale, Edward Elgar and Charles Darwin from notes, or even remove the Queen's face altogether.

In their place could come Victorian black MPs, social pioneers like nurse Mary Seacole, anti-slavery campaigners like William Wilberforce or poets like Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The recommendations were backed by historian Linda Colley, who is an adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Writing in the society's journal Fabian Review, she said: "Why are the people on British bank notes always white? Why not have Olaudah Equiano, the great 18th century anti-slavery writer, or the first Indian MP?"

The society would like Britain to have a written constitution and convert the traditional coronation ceremony into a "multi-faith ceremony".

It has also called for changing the honours system - from awards such as the Order of the British Empire to Order of British Citizens.

Chancellor Gordon Brown is scheduled to address the Fabian Society's conference on Britishness in January.

First Published: Dec 20, 2005 11:16 IST