‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Roy Jenkins – Brilliant, but not quite deadly enough

25 March is the anniversary of the Glasgow Hillhead by-election of 1982, won by Roy Jenkins standing as the SDP candidate. This was to be one of four seats captured by the SDP at by-elections, along with Crosby (won by Shirley Williams in 1981), Portsmouth South (won by Mike Hancock in 1984 and now the sitting LibDem MP) and Greenwich (won by Rosie Barnes in 1987).

Hillhead had previously been held by the Conservatives, whose by-election candidate, Gerry Malone was to suffer several election embarrassments. Having failed at Hillhead, Malone eventually entered parliament at his fourth attempt, holding Aberdeen South for the Conservatives in 1983. He lost the seat in 1987. He then transferred to the safe Conservative seat of Winchester in 1992, but lost this seat in 1997, to Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten by a margin of just two votes. Malone challenged the result in court. The court ordered a rerun of the election, but Oaten won with a resounding majority of 21,566 votes, thus finally ending the parliamentary career of Malone.

Roy Jenkins retained Hillhead in the 1983 general election, before being ousted in 1987 by George Galloway, now Respect MP for Bradford West, but then standing for Labour.

In a wide-ranging and widely-admired career, Jenkins held the positions of President of the European Commission, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the SDP.

Asked why he never quite made it to the very top of politics, Jenkins replied that he was not quite ‘deadly enough’. He was more than deadly enough for Gerry Malone in the Hillhead by-election on this day in 1982.

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