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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Jeremy Thorpe - the Welsh connection

The sad death of Jeremy Thorpe at the age of 85 has provoked many people to reflect on their connections with him and already the interweb is full of various anecdotes and stories.

I never met him, though I first got involved with the Liberal Party in 1974 when he was leader. knocking on doors on behalf of the party during the second 1974 General Election. But as befits any leader of the Liberal Party did have Welsh connections, though not necessarily ones we would want to boast about.

As this obituary recounts, Jeremy Thorpe's parents were staunch Conservatives. His father John Thorpe, born in Cork, was a KC and, for a few years after the First World War, MP for Rusholme in Manchester. His mother was the daughter of Sir John Norton-Griffiths, 1st Bt, another Conservative MP, one who gloried in the epithet “Empire Jack” and who owed his baronetcy to David Lloyd George.

Jeremy Thorpe's mother was a great friend of Lady Megan Lloyd George, who subsequently became his godmother. The Norman Scott affair though revealed a more sinister link through what the newspapers of the time termed the 'South Wales Connection.'

This was the allegation that Andrew Newton had been hired to kill Scott by two businessmen from Port Talbot, John Le Mesurier who ran a discount carpet firm and George Deakin, who had made a fortune from one-armed bandits.

The Liberal deputy treasurer, David Holmes, who was a friend of Thorpe contacted a business associate, John Le Mesurier, who then confided in George Deakin.

Deakin approached an old friend, David Miller who ran a printing shop in Cardiff, who subsequently recommended his friend Andrew Newton as somebody who could frighten Scott away.

The rest as they say is history.

Jeremy Thorpe campaigned frequently in Wales The first visit mentioned was in Dolgarrog in the Conwy valley, then at the 1954 Liberal Assembly in Llandudno where I first spoke to him, afterwards flying in by helicopter to meet crowds at the Rydal playing fields in Colwyn Bay. I think his final meeting was as chairman of the UN Association at Llandudno Town Hall.
A few years ago when I'd become a Peer he was wheeled in to the House of Lords and sat near the Throne in the space reserved for Privy Counsellors. I went to him and was immediately remembered "Roger" even though he was by now badly disabled with Parkinson's Disease . Apart from the unveiling of his bust I guess this must have been his last visit to parliament
Even more sinister... George Deakin was the uncle of the guitarist in Black Lace, who recorded "Agadoo".
If I recall his god mother was also Megan Lloyd George. Thorpe was widely liked by the members in Wales at the time but widely loathed by the Welsh leader and Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire, Ellyn Hooson, for many reasons.
Russell Deacon cannot leave us dangling like that! I really would like to know at least some of the reasons for the late Lord Hooson's alleged antipathy. Was it anything to do with the running fight between Lady Megan and Lady Violet?
I am reminiscing of when I lived in the Port Talbot area and remember George Deakin’s name cropping up.

Did George Deakin have any involvement in Van’s Bingo Hall known as “The Don” in Kenfig Hill; and The Stoneleigh Club in Porthcawl which eventually got damaged by fire?
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