Like most others, I have enjoyed “A Very English Scandal” on BBC1. It’s been a really superbly-made series.
What packed more of a punch, for me, was “The Jeremy Thorpe scandal”, Tom Mangold’s updated documentary, shown on BBC4 on Sunday night.
Having watched that, as a matter of conscience, I find it disturbing that the party has never properly faced up to the Jeremy Thorpe affair.
OK, Jeremy Thorpe was a leader of the Liberal Party, not the Liberal Democrats, and never held any office in the new party. However, the Liberal Democrats did treat Jeremy Thorpe with quite some praise/privilege.
As a conference steward, I remember, briefly, having been asked to do so, guiding Mr and Mrs Thorpe around the conference centre in Harrogate, at the annual gathering. I think that was in 1999 when he attended conference to sign his book and there was talk of him doing well in the forthcoming poll to choose the party’s peers. (As an aside please see my report of a Liberal History Group meeting about the man).
From 1997, there is a report in the Independent on the Eastbourne conference entitled “Lib Dem conference: Thorpe returns from the wilderness” which included this effusive quote from a “spokesman for Mr Ashdown” (Paddy Ashdown was then leader of the party):
Jeremy Thorpe’s leadership at that time was tremendously inspirational and so the party is very pleased to see him here.
When Jeremy Thorpe died there were fulsome tributes from party figures.
Tom Mangold’s documentary brought things into clear focus for me. For years I suppose I have tried not to think of the whole affair in judgmental terms. It is now quite clear what happened (I am sorry I didn’t realise this earlier). The party should somehow acknowledge this and owes an apology to Norman Scott for not acknowledging the truth of the situation much earlier.