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This report is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

The Liberal Moment Neil Powell

It began, just too soon for me, with the Liberals winning the Orpington by-election in 1962. Their candidate was a fish-faced fellow called Eric Lubbock, who looked and sounded as foolish as his name. Private Eye transformed him into Eric Buttock, a semi-literate schoolboy whose letters home from Westminster became a regular feature of the magazine. Meanwhile, on That Was the Week that Was, the cartoonist Timothy Birdsall produced a map of the world which before our eyes gradually metamorphosed into Greater Orpington: ‘What’s the staple food of China? That’s right, rice. R-I-C-E. So all we have to do is to take the last letter and put it at the front and...’ I was fourteen and, although I could see the silly side of Eric Lubbock, I liked the idea that the Liberal moment had come. The times they were a’changing, the answer was blowin’ in the wind: anything was possible.

The first General Election at which I had a vote was that of 1970: the one Edward Heath so surprisingly snatched from Harold Wilson in the final days. I voted Liberal. A year or two later I joined the party and in 1974 worked for a local candidate under the excellent leadership of Jeremy Thorpe: he was highly civilised, intelligent and articulate, a delight to hear as debater or raconteur; and the bizarre way in which his political career ended doesn’t alter any of that. When, after the inconclusive General Election of February 1974, Heath and ...

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