Liberal Democrats celebrate the life and political impact of Jo Grimond
Around 30 people attended Shetland Museum today to mark the centenary year of the birth of Jo Grimond.
The former Isles MP was credited with having saved the Liberal Party, and is widely regarded by party faithful as a “significant figure” in Shetland’s recent political history.
He won the Shetland and Orkney seat in 1950 and continued to represent his constituency until he retired in 1983. In that time he was credited with having saved the party, after becoming leader for an eleven-year stint in 1956. He died in October 1993.
His achievements were highlighted in a lecture delivered by Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes.
Mr Hughes said he appreciated Mr Grimond in his youth during the 1960s and came to know him when he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1983.
“I was very much somebody at his feet coming in with his legacy around me – admiring him and respecting him, and really appreciative that he had been the leader when I had decided I was a Liberal, and he had never let me down.”
He insisted Mr Grimond had been a diligent MP who, during his career, made over 7,000 parliamentary contributions.
“Just in three months it was obvious that Jo came to speak for Orkney and Shetland and he continued to do that. Absolutely all the time, he was there for his constituency.
“If ever you wanted an exemplar of somebody who absolutely understood that the first duty of a member of parliament is to represent their constituency – Jo exemplified that completely.”
But he added Mr Grimond had a “huge interest” in foreign affairs. He was also clear there was a “liberal argument” for home rule while remaining within the UK.
Also attending the event was Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.
Mr Rennie highlighted a need to get back to a form of politics with “a philosophical base” which Mr Grimond advocated during his political life.
“Retail politics, where we’ve got a list to offer the electorate, has its limitations.
Political offerings need to be much more rooted in a philosophical base, so people understand the purpose and not just what’s in it for them.
“That thoughtful, educated, considered approach was very much the model that we need to be moving towards.”
Business secretary Vince Cable also attended. He said Mr Grimond would have been comfortable with the Lib Dem party of today, and insisted the legacy left by Mr Grimond would continue to be felt in 10 or even 20 years time.
“In his day the party was almost extinct – I mean, he saved the party from total calamity and brought it back to life.
“He would, I think, have been very pleasantly surprised to see that we have at UK-level up to 57 MPs … are indeed in government and are occupying major positions, and also playing a major role in home rule which he fought for.”
Local party chairman, Theo Nicolson, said: “Jo Grimond was a significant figure in Shetland’s recent history and was responsible for establishing our unique position on the political map.”