Thursday, 18 May 2017
685 Liberal Party Assembly
First viewed : September 1984
There isn't that much more to say about this having covered much of the same ground a couple of posts ago. The Liberal Party Assembly followed on from the Conference of their SDP partners and what stood out most was an impassioned quasi-unilateralist speech from their coming man Paddy Ashdown against the siting of cruise missiles which he described as "militarily useless". I also recall a smart quip from David Steel that , having met Reagan and Chernenko, he wished that the two men on whom the future of the world depended had a more long term interest in it.
The only thing I recall from the 1985 conference was an interview with Lloyd George's surviving daughter Lady Olwyn Carey-Evans , a sprightly 93-year old.
The 1986 Assembly was notable for the Owen-baiting vote on defence and tributes to the popular MP David Penhaligon who'd died in a car crash earlier that year. Of more local interest was the brief appearance of Cyril Smith who usually boycotted the assemblies but popped in just to declare that he would be standing in Rochdale again. I was working by the time of the 1987 Assembly.
I did watch some of the special Assembly - the final one of the old party- called to vote on merger which was held over a weekend in 1988. I recall a characteristically bonkers speech by a woman called Claire Brooks. Brooks is largely forgotten now but in the seventies she had quite a high profile as a perennial Liberal candidate who kept the Tory MP for Skipton on his toes, coming closest to ousting him in October 1974 . She appeared fairly regularly on Question Time and could always be relied upon to go over the top . And she did so in 1988.
She didn't like the idea of merging with the SDP. fearing the Liberals would lose their radical edge and reminded the delegates of all the twentieth century disasters that wouldn't have happened if the Liberals had kept their backbone straight seventy years earlier. If I recall correctly, her diatribe ended with the phrase "Liberals where are your balls ?" The riposte came from another perennial candidate until ennobled, Baroness Nancy Sear, a pro-merger champion who dismissed Brooks with her opening phrase "After that somewhat selective view of recent history...." enunciated with exquisite aristocratic disdain. Her position won the day, the Liberal Democrats were born and Brooks faded from public view.