Jeremy Thorpe dies aged 85


Published: Thursday 4th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, who once stood trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder, has died, his son announced today.

Mr Thorpe, 85, who headed the party in the 1960s and 1970s, had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for more than three decades.

Tributes were paid to the controversial political leader whose career ended in disgrace.

Lord (David) Steel of Aikwood, who succeeded him as party leader, said: “He had a genuine sympathy for the underprivileged – whether in his beloved North Devon where his first campaign was for ‘mains, drains and a little bit of light’ or in Africa, where he was a resolute fighter against apartheid and became a respected friend of people like President Kaunda of Zambia.”

Mr Thorpe had a glittering political career, helping to revive the Lilberals in the 1970s.

But he was brought down by the sensational court case in which he was accused of conspiracy and incitement to murder former male model Norman Scott.

After his acquittal in 1979 at the end of the Scott affair, he was rarely seen in public.

Liberal Democrat former minister Sir Nick Harvey, who represents Mr Thorpe’s former constituency of North Devon, described him as a “towering force in shaping the political landscape of the late 20th and early 21st centuries”.

“Jeremy Thorpe was a colossal figure in the revival of the Liberal cause in post-war Britain and today’s Lib Dem politicians continue to feast on his legacy,” he said.

“His charisma, energy and innovative campaigning lit up his generation of British politics. He was the first to embrace fully the television age, the first to hit the campaign trail in a helicopter and both the first and, rather memorably, the last to deploy a hovercraft.

“He would have shone in whatever walk of life he chose, but it was to the lasting benefit of Liberalism that he rejected the Conservatism of his ancestors and devoted himself to progressive causes at home and abroad. In North Devon he was a greatly loved champion of the community and is remembered with huge affection to this day.”

Mr Thorpe’s son, Rupert, said the politician “was a devoted husband to my two mothers, Caroline, who died tragically in 1970, and Marion who passed away in March and had raised me and stood by him through everything.

“His grandchildren and great grandchildren will miss him dearly, as will I.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “Jeremy Thorpe’s enforced resignation as leader of the Liberal Party and his subsequent departure from Parliament should not obscure the fact that in his day he was an outstanding parliamentarian with a coruscating wit, and a brilliant campaigner on the stump whose interest and warmth made him a firm favourite with the public.”

He added that Mr Thorpe “bore his long illness with courage and determination” and never lost his “consuming interest” in politics.

Published: Thursday 4th December 2014 by The News Editor

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