Former Liberal Party President Des Wilson has written a scathing piece about Cyril Smith and the Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party for today’s Mail. Wilson writes in disparaging terms of a self-serving parliamentary party out of touch with its own activists, of feeble MPs too afraid to stand up a sexual and political bully like Smith, the ineffectiveness of David Steel as leader, and so on. The following passage is especially interesting:
Oh, I remember them all.
There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)
As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her typing skills.
Then there was the local party leader from well to the north of Watford who had to be woken from his bed on many a Friday and Saturday night to attend a local police station and rescue his MP from trouble after he had been picked up in one dubious circumstance or another. This MP once asked me to travel for three hours to speak to his local party one Friday evening. When I arrived at his house he was just welcoming two attractive ‘boys’ who had also travelled from London on the same train. I was put in a taxi and sent to the meeting without even the offer of dinner while the MP headed to some dodgy backstreet club with his much younger friends.
And, then, there was Cyril Smith who somehow survived more than 140 complaints to the police. How could that possibly happen?
So who in particular was this MP from north of Watford to whom Wilson refers, who may also have been guilty of criminal offences (depending upon the age of the ‘boys’)? Wilson was involved in the Liberal Party from 1973, becoming the President of the Party from 1986-87 (just before the merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988, producing the Liberal Democrats), then running the 1992 election campaign, after which time he stepped down.
I intend to look at Wilson’s other books presently to see if there are any other clues, but though for now I would list all Liberal or Liberal Democrat MPs for seats North of Watford during this period. It is unlikely to have been Steel, Smith, Kennedy or David Alton as they are all mentioned in other contexts in the article. I would also imagine the MP in question to have been in Parliament during the period of Wilson’s Presidency from 1986 to 1987, or possibly during the run-up to the 1992 election campaign.
Jo Grimond, Orkney and Shetland, 1950-1983 (Liberal) (deceased)
Emlyn Hooson, Montgomeryshire, 1962-79 (Liberal) (deceased)
Russell Johnston, Inverness, 1964-83; Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Steel, Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, 1965-83; Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Wainwright, Colne Valley, 1966-70, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Michael Winstanley, Cheadle, 1966-70; Hazel Grove, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Cyril Smith, Rochdale, 1972-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Austick, Ripton, 1973-74 (Liberal) (deceased)
Clement Freud, Isle of Ely, 1973-83; North East Cambridgeshire, 1983-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Alan Beith, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1973-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Geraint Howells, Cardigan, 1974-83; Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire North, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Alton, Liverpool Mossley Hill, 1979-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds West, 1983-87 (Liberal)
Malcolm Bruce, Gordon, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Alex Carlile, Montgomeryshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Archy Kirkwood, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
James Robert Wallace, Orkney and Shetland, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Livsey, Brecon and Radnorshire, 1985-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Elizabeth Shields, Ryedale, 1986-87 (Liberal)
Menzies Campbell, North East Fife, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Ronald Fearn, Southport, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001
Janet Ray Michie, Argyll and Bute, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Charles Kennedy, Ross, Cromarty and Skye, 1988-97, Ross, Skye and Inverness West, 1997-2005, Ross, Skey and Lochaber, 2005-present (Liberal Democrat)
Robert Maclennan, Caithness and Sutherland, 1988–97; Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, 1997–2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Carr, Ribble Valley, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Nicol Stephen, Kincardine and Deeside, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Other MPs not North of Watford:
Jeremy Thorpe, North Devon, 1959-79 (Liberal)
John Pardoe, North Cornwall, 1966-79 (Liberal)
Graham Tope, Sutton and Cheam, 1972-74 (Liberal)
Christopher Mayhew, Woolwich East, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Paul Tyler, Bodmin, 1974 (Liberal); North Cornwall, 1992-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
David Penhaligon, Truro, 1974-86 (Liberal) (deceased)
Stephen Ross, Isle of Wight, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Bill Pitt, Croydon North West, 1981-83 (Liberal)
Simon Hughes, Bermondsey, 1983; Southwark and Bermondsey, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; North Southwark and Bermondsey, 1997-present (Liberal Democrat)
Paddy Ashdown, Yeovil, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2002 (Liberal Democrat)
Matthew Taylor, Truro, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; Truro and St Austell, 1997-2010 (Liberal Democrat)
David Bellotti, Eastbourne, 1990-92 (Liberal Democrat)
All of the MPs listed above should also be asked what they knew about Cyril Smith.