Tim gets aboard a hovercraft. What could possibly go wrong?

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This (above) is a slide show courtesy of Getty Images. Click on the arrows to see all five photos of Tim’s glorious descension into Burnham-on-Sea yesterday

Well, you have to admire the pluck of Tim Farron. As a keen student of Liberal History, I am sure he is aware of the intimate details of Jeremy Thorpe’s 1974 hovercraft adventure. That was the year of two elections – one in February and one in October. In fact, if you ask the great Paul Tyler, he will tell you all about this, because he was MP for Bodmin (but, crucially, not actually “Going Bodmin”) from February to October and then had to wait until 1992 before returning to the Commons as MP for North Cornwall. Jeremy Thorpe was the charismatic leader of the Liberal Party at the time. He hit upon a marvellous idea to campaign to the populace during the summer hiatus before the October election, which was long anticipated.

Jeremy Thorpe decided to go where the people go in the summer – to the beaches of Britain. So he hired a hovercraft, gathered his lieutenants and the media about him, and took to the beaches of the South-West, via the oceans.

It was a masterstroke. As a youngster, I witnessed the arrival of Jeremy Thorpe on his contraption at Bude in Cornwall. We heard it coming, saw the spray being thrown up by it. It made the tricky crossing of the bar and then came up close to the lifeboat house. Hordes of people in swimming trunks and bikinis stood up and moved across the beach to get a glimpse of Mr Thorpe, who emerged from the gliding vessel alongside Angela Rippon (reporting the event for Westward Television). Jeremy Thorpe was dressed in three piece suit with trilby – creating something of a juxtaposition with the throngs of sun-tanned swim-suited holiday makers.

Jeremy Thorpe then made an eloquent and passionate speech.

The tour of the West Country was all very successful.

Until that is, there came the mother of all storms somewhere about Somerset as the hovercraft made its way northward. Jeremy Thorpe wasn’t beaten though. He donned a complete set of yellow Sou’ Westers and gamely forged on. You can see a wonderful photo of him in this garb on the BBC website here.

But even Jeremy Thorpe’s bright yellow Sou’ Westers could not stop the great British weather. Finally, the weather won. It was a wonder that Jeremy Thorpe, his lieutenants and the media did not end up visiting voters in Atlantis.

But, of course, Tim Farron knows all this. And still he bravely launched himself, via hovercraft, at Burnham-on-Sea yesterday.

In fact, I don’t think Burnham-on-Sea is very far from the site of the inauspicious end of Jeremy Thorpe’s hovercraft tour in 1974…we’d have to check that with the Lord Tyler.

Anyway, like I say, you have to admire Tim’s pluck.

In closing, I should mention a serious point. The hovercraft that Tim travelled on yesterday is part of BARB, formed as the Burnham Area Rescue Boat in 1992, which is a registered charity that operates two life-saving rescue hovercrafts and an inshore rescue boat in the Bridgwater Bay area. Please visit BARB’s website here. Well done to the BARB team and thank you for all you do!

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