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Dick Taverne, 21 February 1980

by Jo Grimond.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 434 30600 2
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... As Leader of the Liberal Party, Jo Grimond was stimulating, charming, full of flashes of insight, and often irritating. His memoirs, which are only partly about politics and otherwise consist of a leisurely amble through life in his constituency and with his family and friends, have much the same qualities. They are utterly unpretentious: ‘Not a contribution to serious history,’ he tells us, ‘but a series of footnotes to things and people as I saw them ...

Only Lower Upper

Peter Clarke: The anti-establishment establishment Jo Grimond, 5 May 2005

Liberal Lion: Jo Grimond, a Political Life 
by Peter Barberis.
Tauris, 266 pp., £19.50, March 2005, 1 85043 627 4
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... reconvened on Monday, the tributes were warm and widespread, and not just from his own party. Jo Grimond, the leader of the Labour peers said, was ‘a man who gave politics a good name’. Peter Barberis has written a book that endorses this judgment. It is a well-researched account of Grimond’s ...

Crisis at Ettrick Bridge

William Rodgers, 12 October 1989

A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88 
by Chris Cook.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £9.95, August 1989, 0 333 44884 7
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Against Goliath 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 318 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 9780297796787
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Labour’s Decline and the Social Democrats’ Fall 
by Geoffrey Lee Williams and Alan Lee Williams.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, July 1989, 0 333 46541 5
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by Annette Penhaligon.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0501 2
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Citizens’ Britain: A Radical Agenda for the 1990s 
by Paddy Ashdown.
Fourth Estate, 159 pp., £5.95, September 1989, 1 872180 45 0
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... As Chris Cook reminds us in the latest edition of his History of the Liberal Party, it was Jo Grimond who turned round the depleted Liberal ranks and marched them towards the sound of gunfire. It seemed a risible endeavour, with Lady Violet Bonham-Carter and remnants of the Liberal ascendancy shoulder-to-shoulder with a street-wise generation of ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... supported by moderate consensus Tories such as Whitelaw and Maudling, the former Liberal leader Jo Grimond and middle-of-the-road Labour politicians like Cledwyn Hughes. On the other side of the argument were the bogeymen of British politics – from Enoch Powell, who was by then, scarier still, an Ulster Unionist, to Tony Benn and Michael Foot. With a ...


William Rodgers: Party Conference Jamboree, 25 October 1990

... a minority party, seldom expecting to be taken seriously and relying on a single performance by Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe or David Steel to give them whatever credibility they could earn. It was Labour that faced the real problem. Defeat for the leadership – often following a bitter row – saddled it with policies unacceptable to its own MPs and ...

The Unsolved Mystery of the Money Tree

Anthony Howard: Jeremy Thorpe, 19 August 1999

In My Own Time: Reminiscences of a Liberal Leader 
by Jeremy Thorpe.
Politico’s, 234 pp., £18, April 1999, 1 902301 21 8
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... that he employed. He may not have had the authority or gravitas of his immediate predecessor, Jo Grimond, but he seldom failed to entertain his audience. Even within his own Party he was often thought to be a lightweight; but that never struck me as wholly fair. He had a consistent record on Europe and a notably courageous one on immigration and ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... he still wore a white sweater with the Old Etonian colours. Later yet, he voted Liberal because Jo Grimond was an Old Etonian. The school gave him a taste for formality and occasional luxury. When, in 1933, he set off to explore the Abyssinian mountains of Arussi, he bought his provisions from Fortnum and Mason. Later, in the Sudan, he had khaki ...

Happy Knack

Ian Sansom: Betjeman, 20 February 2003

John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 736 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7195 5002 5
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... those of the most stunning women undergraduates, Anita Auden (a niece of the poet), Grizelda Grimond (daughter of the Liberal leader, Jo Grimond) and Maggie Keswick (daughter of the Hong Kong taipan, Sir John Keswick)’. Working-class undergraduates, one can only assume, were all ugly. Even Betjeman’s secretary ...

The Stamp of One Defect

David Edgar: Jeremy Thorpe, 30 July 2015

Jeremy Thorpe 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 606 pp., £25, December 2014, 978 0 316 85685 0
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Closet Queens: Some 20th-Century British Politicians 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 320 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4087 0412 7
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... and television. By the time of his election to the Liberal Party leadership in 1967, succeeding Jo Grimond, Thorpe had established a platform that would define liberalism and indeed much of the progressive agenda for the rest of the century and beyond. It was characterised by internationalism and anti-colonialism (particularly in Africa), a benign ...


J.I.M. Stewart, 15 September 1983

M.R. James: An Informal Portrait 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 268 pp., £14.50, June 1983, 0 19 211765 3
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... there was, perhaps, something injudicious about them. It was, for instance, at the age of 13 that Jo Grimond, plied with claret and port at the Provost’s board, returned to his house ‘just before midnight, very slightly drunk’. Luxmoore’s disapproval climaxed on Founder’s Day 1919, on which Monty revived the 16th-century custom of the Boy ...

On the Coalition

LRB Contributors, 10 June 2010

... chaired by Roy Jenkins (then Labour), sitting on a platform together with Cledwyn Hughes (Labour), Jo Grimond (Liberal), Willie Whitelaw and Reginald Maudling (both Conservatives) and the diplomat Con O’Neill. Harold Wilson supported Britain’s continued membership of the Common Market, but did so from the sidelines, and – in a break from the norms ...

Long March

Martin Pugh, 2 June 1983

Renewal: Labour’s Britain in the 1980s 
by Shadow Cabinet, edited by Gerald Kaufman.
Penguin, 201 pp., £2.50, April 1983, 0 14 052351 0
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Socialism in a Cold Climate 
edited by John Griffith.
Allen and Unwin, 230 pp., £2.95, April 1983, 9780043350508
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Liberal Party Politics 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Oxford, 302 pp., £17.50, April 1983, 0 19 827465 3
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... marooned on the centre-right until around 1956, when it was rescued by the leadership of Jo Grimond and the Suez fiasco. Since then, as William Wallace shows, Liberal politics has revolved around a series of attempts to achieve a realignment of the Left with a view to restoring the Liberals to a major role. Realignment usually gets off the ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... understood would have to be more than the Liberal Party alone if it was to achieve his mentor Jo Grimond’s dream of becoming a radical non-socialist alternative to Conservatism. Steel is patient and extraordinarily equable – qualities which had stood him in good stead with an excitable party and which were to prove essential in dealing with Dr ...

The Darth Vader Option

Colin Kidd: The Tories, 24 January 2013

The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change 
by Tim Bale.
Oxford, 372 pp., £55, September 2012, 978 0 19 923437 0
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The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 471 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 7456 4858 3
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Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 
by Richard Hayton.
Manchester, 166 pp., £60, September 2012, 978 0 7190 8316 7
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... a more interventionist social liberalism. As late as the 1980s the Liberals’ former leader Jo Grimond expressed disquiet about the easy and unthinking alignment of classical Liberalism with the alien creed of the Liberals’ allies in the Social Democratic Party. Not that such incompatibilities were confined to the Liberal-SDP Alliance. The Tories ...

Masses and Classes

Ferdinand Mount: Gladstone, 17 February 2005

The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics 
by David Bebbington.
Oxford, 331 pp., £55, March 2004, 0 19 926765 0
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... spokesmen – Vincent Cable, David Laws and Mark Oaten – are the first prominent Liberals since Jo Grimond who could seriously claim to be heirs of the Grand Old Man. Political commentators point out that parties make such shifts because otherwise they have little hope of getting elected. Gladstone himself, whose eye for the main chance remained ...

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