Sebastian Payne

Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies, aged 85

Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies, aged 85
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Jeremy Thorpe, the former leader of the Liberal Party, has passed away aged 85, after suffering from Parkinson's disease for many years. Thorpe will unfortunately be best remembered for the affair that ended his career, involving a former male model and a shot dog. The Spectator's Guide to Political Scandals explained what happened:

'Thorpe was a dashing young Liberal MP, elected in 1959 aged 30. A former president of the Oxford Union, everything was falling into place for him. But in 1961 he met Norman Scott, a troubled individual who would plague Thorpe for the rest of his life. Scott claimed that Thorpe had sex with him, an act that would have been illegal at the time.

'In 1962 Thorpe helped Scott avoid a charge of theft. But that was just the beginning of Scott’s odd behaviour. Meanwhile, Thorpe’s career prospered, and he became Liberal leader in 1967. Scott went to the press in 1969 with allegations about their relationship, but the papers wouldn’t publish. In 1973, he moved to Thorpe’s constituency, bringing trouble.

'The next year Thorpe was involved in talks with Ted Heath about a possible coalition after the 1974 election. But Scott wouldn’t go away. In 1975, an ‘assassin’ was supposedly hired to kill him. The assassin executed Scott’s dog, Rinka, and warned him he would be next. In the ensuing court case, Scott stated that he and Thorpe had had an affair — the press could now report this charge without fear of being sued. The ‘assassin’ was found guilty of firearms offences and sent to jail. On his release in 1977, he sold his story, alleging he had been hired to kill Scott.

'Thorpe lost his seat in the 1979 general election. Later that year, he went on trial for conspiracy to murder. He was found not guilty.'

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said in a statement this afternoon:

'Jeremy Thorpe’s leadership and resolve were the driving force that continued the Liberal revival that began under Jo Grimond.

'Jeremy oversaw some of the party’s most famous by-election victories and his involvement with the anti-apartheid movement and the campaign for Britain’s membership of the common market were ahead of his time.'

Former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell also praised Thorpe's role in transforming the Liberal Party:

'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."