Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Jeremy Thorpe and the Liberal Party's money

Though Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder at his Old Bailey trial, there was never any thought of his being allowed to take up a prominent role in the Liberal Party afterwards.

My impression is that it was not his entanglement with Norman Scott that sealed Thorpe's fate. It was that a generation of Liberals had realised that he could not be trusted with the party's money.

Anthony Howard touched upon this topic when reviewing Thorpe's memoirs  for the London Review of Books.

Describing the book as a 'slim and inconsequential volume', Howard refers to a subplot of the Scott affair that was known as 'the money tree':
Thorpe had always been a very successful fundraiser – he was treasurer of the Party before he became its leader – and the suspicion gradually grew that a contribution of £20,000 from ‘Union Jack’ Hayward in the Bahamas had somehow been diverted via a Channel Islands bank account and had never reached the Party coffers at all. 
The allegation, of which the prosecution should probably have made more at the trial, was that the money had gone, first to paying off Norman Scott and, when that failed to buy his silence, to funding someone to kill him. It was certainly a mysterious, murky story in which a businessman friend of Thorpe’s called Nadir Dinshaw eventually emerged as the innocent dupe. 
The best discussion of the whole imbroglio is, surprisingly, to be found in a recent book by Trevor Beeson, a former Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, entitled Window on Westminster. Thorpe does himself few favours by ignoring the episode as if it had never occurred.

2 comments:

Frank Little said...

If I recall correctly, Thorpe also had few qualms about lending his name to at least one of the dodgy fringe banks which later collapsed.

Phil Beesley said...

The Thorpe affair fits with general amateurishness of Liberal Party officials and executive officers at the time. It is consistent with the appalling decision to ignore the Smith child abuse allegations which were reported at frequent intervals throughout the 1980s in Private Eye. Claims to be unaware presume that we are all stupid.

If you recall, the Liberal Party reorganised the campaigns department before and after the 1983 general election, recruiting staff associated with successful by-elections and the ALC. Several donors also demanded that the central party employ professional managers. There were even a few lessons to be learned from the SDP...