Former Liberal Party Leader Jeremy Thorpe dies at 85

Liberal Democrats have paid tribute to former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe following his death aged 85.

Mr Thorpe died today (4 December) at his home in London. He had battled with Parkinson's Disease for more than 35 years. 

He was elected as Liberal MP for North Devon in the 1959 General Election and held the seat for 20 years. 

Following the retirement of Jo Grimond, he was elected as leader of the Liberal Party in 1967. 

He was a fervent supporter of Britain's membership of the the EU and played a leading role in the 1975 referendum. 

Mr Thorpe was defeated at the 1979 General Election and remained a committed Liberal, as the the President of the North Devon Liberal Democrats at the time of his death.

He is survived by his son Rupert.

Paying tribute to Jeremy Thorpe Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

"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.

"My thoughts are with Jeremy’s family and friends as they try and come to terms with their loss."

Sir Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon said:

 “Jeremy Thorpe was a colossal figure in the revival of the Liberal cause in post-war Britain and today’s Lib Dem politicians continue to feast on his legacy.  His charisma, energy and innovative campaigning lit up his generation of British politics.  He was the first to embrace fully the television age, the first to hit the campaign trail in a helicopter and both the first and, rather memorably, the last to deploy a hovercraft.

“He would have shone in whatever walk of life he chose, but it was to the lasting benefit of Liberalism that he rejected the Conservatism of his ancestors and devoted himself to progressive causes at home and abroad.  In North Devon he was a greatly loved champion of the community and is remembered with huge affection to this day.

“He was a towering force in shaping the political landscape of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”

Lord Steel of Aikwood, who succeeded Jeremy Thorpe as Liberal leader said:

“The Liberal Party will always be grateful for Jeremy Thorpe’s remarkable campaigning zest, as indeed I was during my by-election. It paid rich dividends in the uplift the Party secured in the 1974 election. He had a genuine sympathy for the underprivileged – whether in his beloved North Devon where his first campaign was for “mains, drains and a little bit of light” or in Africa where he was a resolute fighter against apartheid and became a respected friend of people like President Kaunda of Zambia.”


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