Monday, September 25, 2023

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Call them Orkney and Shetland"

When I tweeted a picture of a couple of my Liberal Party membership cards from the 1980s, something about the map on them attracted the attention of the President of the Liberal Democrats. 

He commented in reply: 

I'm not sure @amcarmichaelMP  would approve of his constituency being left off :)

Which got me thinking...


I first met Jo Grimond during the 1950 general election campaign. He proved a charming companion, and as we made inroads into a bottle of Auld Johnston, that most prized of Highland malts, he laid out his plans to me. 

“Britain needs a strong Liberal Party, yet it’s practically impossible to get elected in our colours these days. So I’ve decided to invent a constituency and just turn up at Westminster after the election with all the new MPs. I’ve dreamt up two groups of islands off the North coast of Scotland - call them Orkney and Shetland - as I don’t suppose anyone at Westminster will have been sea bathing at Thurso. Besides, my father fagged for the Serjeant at Arms, so there won’t be any awkward questions.” 

And his plan worked better than I had imagined possible. Over the years he got rather carried away with inventing new features in his constituency – ancient stone circles, a Viking cathedral, a Nissan hut turned into a gem of a chapel by an Italian prisoner of war – but no one smelled a rat. 

When the time came for Grimond to stand down, we agreed that the scheme was too clever to be allowed to die, so first Jim Wallace and then Alistair Carmichael were let into the secret. 

From time to time, I come across maps in our party’s policy documents or on membership cards that leave off Shetland or even Orkney, and have to make urgent phone calls to get them made consistent with our story. 

I say, it’s a good thing there’s a lock on this diary!

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West, 1906-10

Earlier this week....

No comments: