Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats

Unfinished business

This book offers new research on familiar themes involving loyalties of politics, faith and locality. Richard Wainwright was a Liberal MP for seventeen years during the Liberal Party's recovery, but his life tells us about much more than this. He grew up in prosperity, but learned from voluntary work about poverty; he refused to fight in World War Two, but saw war at its cruellest; he joined the Liberal Party when most had given up on it, but gave his fortune to it; lost a by-election but caused the only Labour loss in Harold Wilson's landslide of 1966. Wainwright then played a key role in the fall of Jeremy Thorpe, the Lib-Lab Pact and the formation of the SDP-Liberal Alliance and the Liberal Democrats; he represented a unique Yorkshire constituency that reflected his pride and hope for society; and though he gave his life to the battle to be in the Commons, he refused a seat in the Lords. He is central to the story of the Liberal Party and sheds light on the reasons for its survival and the state of its prospects. At the same time, this book is a parable of politics for anyone who wants to represent an apparently lost cause, who wants to motivate people who have been neglected, and who want to follow their convictions at the highest level.

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