Back in 1969 and with some initial trepidation on her part, my mother (who came from a 1945-era Young Conservative branch secretary background) took me to see and listen to a visiting politician orate at the Winter Garden Theatre.
With many of the then Eastbourne Liberal establishment on the flowered platform, their new leader Jeremy Thorpe MP was to address us all at a ‘public meeting’.
It was a performance that I, as a young history student, had never seen in my life and even my mother was “impressed” – whilst carefully avoiding the proffered handshake at the end. Without visible notes or props throughout, Thorpe gave a spell-binding speech that had the audience in the palm of his hand. He spoke of the destiny of European unity and justice for Rhodesia’s suppressed black population. Whatever else is now written about Thorpe, who died last month and had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, I shall always be grateful not only to my late mum Bridget for that experience but also to the Winter Garden for hosting it, and I lament the decline of Jeremy Thorpe’s party into a dying mere appendage of the Tories.
L. Irvine Iles