Joseph Grimond obituary

The Liberal who came to the aid of his party

His achievement was to rescue his party from a world of memories and dreams and put it back into politics. His aims were practical, not rhetorical. This in no way diminishes the quality of his impact – no politician of his day had a more civilising influence on our affairs. Grimond’s discouragement of cant among his own followers put him in a strong position to keep a sharp eye on Conservative and Labour pretences and at a time when tacit agreement between the two front benches in parliament extended to ever wider fronts, a third voice was never more needed. Under Grimond the Liberals provided it. Although the efforts to turn the third voice into a third force met with constant frustration, the party’s MPs were able to exercise an influence quite disproportionate to their numbers.

But exhortation was never enough for Grimond. He saw from the start that politics are more about what people do than what they say. Jo Grimond was born at St Andrews. His family had prospered in the jute trade. He did well at Eton, went to Balliol as a Brackenbury Scholar, and took a first in modern greats. In the 1935 general election he worked for Arthur Irvine, then a Liberal candidate, who had been one of Lloyd George’s “young men” and who later became a Labour MP.

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