Sunday, October 17, 2004

Earl Russell

Conrad Russell died last week, an irreplaceable loss to the Liberal Democrats and to Liberalism in general. There were worthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

I remember his saying once, rather overgenerously, that I did for the party what Matthew Parris does for the country. I also remember his asking me, as his wife had always wondered, why Lord Bonkers talked about Earl Russell and his Big Band. I explained that as there were band leaders called Count Basie and Duke Ellington... When I was studying philosophy as an undergraduate, I never dreamed that I would have this conversation with Bertrand Russell's son.

But my favourite memory of Conrad Russell is of his travelling back by train from a Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth. He went straight to the buffet car so he could smoke, and I followed him for the pleasure of his company.

There were many young people there already, including three lads drinking lager. "Haven't I seen you on telly?" one of the lads asked, and I was afraid they were going to make fun of him. But Conrad was more than equal to the occasion and soon gathered an attentive group around him. He discussed the single European currency with them while I handed out copies of Liberator and Liberal Democrat News.

After a while I noticed that the lager lads were talking about the single currency amongst themselves too.

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