Thursday, June 04, 2020

Another Liberal cricket journalist: Frank Keating

Two of my favourite cricket journalists, John Arlott and Alan Gibson, were Liberal Party general election candidates.

To them I can add Frank Keating, who was never a candidate but did act as campaign manager to Grenville Jones.

The story begins, as Keating once wrote in the Guardian, in the "one-room, one-man Leominster branch office of the Hereford Times in 1958":

"Keating, boyo, I'm North Hereford's new Liberal candidate: I'm going to make you - and you're going to make me."

And so, mutually, we each contrived to do so. There was no official Lib organisation; the Tories were landslidingly first, the rest nowhere. Grenville's first target was to do better than the Libs in South Hereford, considered winnable, where Robin Day was Liberal candidate. 
We were to do better, and comfortably; the supercilious townee Day was out of his element on the rustic hustings, whilst alongside him at joint meetings, off-the-cuff Grenville would have the smocks rocking and rolling in agreement and mirth in the cattle-aisles and among the pig-pens.

This star-struck young reporter played his part. Grenville would telephone from London with his variety of opinions - anything from the National Farmers Union's local fatstock prices to the end-of-the-monarchy or Kenya's Mau-Mau - and, shamelessly, I would patch-in these matters of policy into reports of non-existent meetings around the constituency, invariably "packed-out and enthralled"

According to my new favourite publication, Liberal/Liberal Democrat candidates in parliamentary elections in the West Midland Region 1945-2015, the local association in Leominster declined to readopt him as candidate because his lifestyle did not meet with the approval of its straitlaced members and officers.

Jones, who had already fought the Isle of Ely in 1950, next turned up as the Liberal candidate in Tavistock at the 1964 general election.

By then Keating was working in outside broadcasts for ITV in London:

"I could now officially be called "campaign manager." The Olympic Games were in the offing in Japan, and I had mates in the graphics department doctor huge posters showing star athletes lunging to breast the tape - with Jones's face superimposed and the legend announcing 'A Gold For Grenville'. In one weekend, we must have pasted up more than a thousand.
The Tories were rattled - but, of course, hung on to win. Grenville, gloriously, took the silver again."

Jones, who later joined the Labour Party, became a pioneering political consultant, with clients including the imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

When Frank Keating died in 2013, his Guardian obituary said:

Few modern sports writers have brought alive sporting people, past and present, champions and also-rans, as Keating did. Few have written with such sympathy, able to laugh with them, not at them, at the same time minting fresh, inventive phraseology. He created a new language for the nation's sporting press. He was unique, and beloved by contemporaries, who saw his writing skills and awards as a guiding path for their own.

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