Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sir Arthur Comyns-Carr and the coast of China

Plashing Vole has fun with the reduced standing of the Liberal Democrats:

Which reminds me of a story about an old Liberal Party assembly.

Here is Paddy Ashdown telling it in his leader's speech to our 1993 spring conference:

It is almost exactly forty years ago that David Steel’s predecessor, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Sir Arthur Comyns-Carr QC, complete in wing collar and side-boots, opened his speech at the Liberal Assembly here in Torquay with the immortal words…

‘I do not wish to say anything which might endanger the security of Quemoy and Matsu off the coast of China.’

But in 1993 we could smile at the Liberal Party of the 1950s. Because Paddy went on to observe:

Well I hope that the large number of foreign diplomats and visitors we have at our Conference today is an indication that what we say today is perhaps taken rather more seriously.

I doubt we will have many diplomates present when the Lib Dems are again able to hold a traditional party conference. We are closer to the Liberal Party of the 1950s than we care to admit.


Matt Pennell said...

What are we to make of Comyns-Carr's very untidy bow-tie arrangement in this pic? Is this the sign of a man so important he lacks the time to straighten out the bows and make sure the collar is symmetrical? Or perhaps, despite being a QC, Comyns-Carr shares the bohemian middle-class art values of his Liberal contemporaries and thumbs his nose at the idea of have an immaculate bow-tie, leaving such cares and worries to members of the military industrial complex instead.

Jonathan Calder said...

He came from an artistic family, so my money is on the latter explanation.

david walsh said...

He was certainly of the "try, try and try again" persausion. Wiki says of him "His ambition to become a Liberal Member of Parliament led Comyns Carr to stand for Parliament on eleven occasions in all. He first stood for election in 1918 in St Pancras South West against a Conservative opponent who had received the Coalition Coupon and fought the same seat again in 1922. At the 1923 general election Comyns Carr had his only success, becoming Liberal MP for Islington East turning a Unionist majority of nearly 4,000 into a Liberal majority of 1,632 but he lost the seat at the general election of 1924 like many other Liberals swept away as British politics seemed to be reverting to its traditional two party model. In 1928, he was Liberal candidate at the by-election for the constituency of Ilford and fought the seat again in the general election of the following year.

He then challenged Winston Churchill in his constituency at Epping in the 1931 general election and in 1935 he suffered his heaviest defeat ever at Nottingham East. In June 1936 he was elected to serve on the Liberal Party Council. He stood again in 1945 when he lost at Shrewsbury In October 1945 he was a candidate at another by-election, this time in the City of London.

David Evans said...

We are of course in danger of collapsing completely as a parliamentary party, but almost no-one wants to face up to it.

First we allowed our party to be destroyed by our leader's own hands for five years and did nothing. Then we had a leader who at least understood that we needed to rebuild from the bottom up, and took up the right side of the one issue that could still get us noticed, but he definitely wasn't in with the metropolitan king makers and was unceremoniously stabbed in the back.

Then a leader who largely let people get on with it, including on Brexit, a strategy that seemed to be working until a new leader came along who chose to bet the house on a quick election - the one thing strangely enough that Boris Johnson wanted more than anything, and squandered whatever chance that remained on ill conceived hubris like Revoke and 'Britain's next prime minister'.

Now, just as Brexit is going wrong all around the Conservative party, we have a leader who unilaterally decides to stamp out the last smouldering embers of Rejoin in the party and instead bet the pile of bricks and tiles that remain on Carers.

Party strategy it ain't, whatever Mark Pack might say. Scrabbling about in utter confusion is much closer to it.