Jeremy Thorpe dies

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Jeremy Thorpe (left) arriving at the Old Bailey in 1979 for his trial | Press Association | 14473

Former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 85.

Jeremy Thorpe was elected leader of the Liberals in 1967, but his political career ended when his life was engulfed in scandal and he faced trial on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder.

He resigned as Liberal Party leader in 1976 after allegations of an affair with a former male model, Norman Scott, at a time when male homosexual acts were illegal. Along with three other men, he was later charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Scott, but all the men walked free from court after a 31-day trial, in 1979.

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “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.”

Lord Steel of Aikwood, who succeeded Mr Thorpe as party leader, said he had a “genuine sympathy for the underprivileged”, both in his constituency and in Africa, where he campaigned against apartheid.

John Jeremy Thorpe was born in Surrey on 29 April 1929 into a Conservative family – both his father and grandfather were Tory MPs. One of his ancestors was Mr Speaker Thorpe of Edward II’s Parliament, who was beheaded by a mob in 1461. He received some of his education in America. He read law at Trinity College, Oxford where he became chairman of the Liberal Club and then the Oxford Union. On entering politics he was a pioneering campaigner for human rights, attacking South Africa’s policy of apartheid and the post-colonial excesses in South East Asia.

Gay History: The trial of Jeremy Thorpe

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