Friday, June 01, 2018

Ming Campbell remembers Jeremy Thorpe

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Caroline Frost has been speaking to Liberal Democrats about A Very English Scandal, the BBC drama series on Jeremy Thorpe.

The most substantial quotes in the piece come from the party's former leader Ming Campbell, who was leading the Liberal Party in Scotland at the time of Thorpe's trial.

Remembering Thorpe he says:
"He was quick-witted, not always kind, occasionally cruel. But when he looked at you and talked to you – and I’m about to go into Women’s Own language - you felt you were the only person in the world he was interested in. 
You had to parry like a swordsman, because he was not just charismatic but quixotic as well, and you had to try to keep up, otherwise you got flattened by the strength of his personality. 
It would last for half a dozen moments, and then he would do exactly the same with the person after you, and the person after that. He had huge powers of focus."
Ming also pays tribute to Thorpe as a campaigner:
"I was very admiring of him also with radicalism on all sorts of things like apartheid. He certainly encapsulated the feelings of young left wing people like me. And he was among the first to harness the power of communication, both electronic and personal, particularly during the General Election of 1974. 
"I took him along Princes Street in Edinburgh on a walkabout, and watched him engage people and be immediately disarming. He’d say to someone, ‘Gosh, that’s a smart coat.’ Most politicians feel quite anxious about not getting anything wrong, so you end up giving quite banal responses, but Thorpe didn’t know what banal meant."
He means the first general election of 1974, which took place in February. Because of his slim majority Thorpe conducted his morning press conference by closed-circuit television from Barnstaple and somehow turned this to his advantage.

Caroline Frost has also talked to my fellow Lib Dem blogger Mark Pack and refers several times to a Liberal MP called David Steele who is now Lord Steele.

While the Northamptonshire batsman David Steele should certainly have been given a peerage for his efforts for England against Lillee and Thomson in 1975, I think she probably means David Steel.

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