Monday, December 01, 2014

A Lib Dem stocking filler: Who Decides? by Paul Tyler

Who Decides?
Paul Tyler
Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd, 2014, £5.95

This slim volume would be a welcome addition to any Liberal Democrat's Christmas stocking. Now a Liberal Democrat peer, he was Liberal MP for Bodmin between the February and October elections of 1974, and then Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall between 1992 and 2005.

It is both Paul Tyler's memoirs and a practical guide to how committees work - and how to get them to do what you want.

The insights of the psychologist Edgar Anstey provides the scaffolding for the book, and it is illustrated by Thelwell cartoons. There is also a female nude sketched by Peter Shepheard during a meeting of the Royal Institute of British Architects (though probably not from the life).

Two episodes from Paul's political career will be of particular interest to his Liberal Democrat readers.

The first is the story of the count at Bodmin in the February 1974 general election:
At about 8 p.m. on Friday 1 March 1974 I was elected MP for the Bodmin constituency by a majority of just nine votes. 
The count had taken more than twelve hours, with six recounts, and we were locked into the public rooms at Liskeard with very little idea of what was happening in Westminster. Long before mobile phones we were dependent on the limited news brought in by friendly police officers alongside a supply of pasties. 
My mother (aged seventy-two) had engaged obstreperous young Conservatives with fisticuffs, our daughter (aged nineteen months) was entertaining the supporters at the Liberal Club and it was threatening to snow.
The second concerns the Beaconsfield by-election of 1982, where Paul finished second to the Conservatives' Tim Smith.

But who came third? Paul writes of the Labour selection process:
There were only four applications. The Labour leader of the neighbouring council of Slough, John Hurley, apparently performed badly at the only meeting at which the four were questioned. 
Anthony Blair, smart London lawyer, long-haired and debonair, was later dubbed "Deb's Delight" in Gerrards Cross, but after his selection was announced the South Bucks Observer reported it under the headline "Benn-backing barrister is Labour's choice". 
His appeal consisted of a loyal reiteration of Michael Foot's then current policy stance: exit from Europe, ban the bomb and doubts over the military adventure to recapture the Falklands.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

If the book is half as good as the interview Lord Tyler gave to BBC-Parliament in plugging it, I hope that a copy does find its way into my stocking.