Monday, July 26, 2010

Grimond's vision of the future wasn't far off

Last month, when I was researching in the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, I was struck by a White House Staff Note from October 1957. The short piece in the news round-up aimed at White House insiders chimed with significant resonance. Was there more than a touch of Nick Clegg's post electoral coalition dilemma?

The note recounts a conversation between Jo Grimond, the Liberal Party leader at the time and Jock Whitney, the US Ambassador to Britain. According to the White House record: "Grimond made an unusually frank admission to Ambassador Whitney that would shock his followers, namely he envisages no future for his party except by merging with the Tories or the Labor (sic) party, either of which he could contemplate........Grimond observed that the party's future might be in developing modern political ideas, selling them to one of the major parties, and then joining that party to ensure implementation and prevent backsliding to extreme policies."

It's worth noting that Grimond saw both rival parties as facing dilemmas in holding together the extremes of their support. But, tantalisingly, the report doesn't say which of the big beasts he preferred the Liberals to merge with.

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