There are not that many places where there are staunch Liberals who voted in an MP in the years between World War II and the revival in the Party's fortunes in the seventies and eighties. And, rather unexpectedly, I am reaping a small reward from being in one of them.
On the doorstep today, a voter told me that he had campaigned for Edgar Granville and said, "You'll be too young to remember him.". He was right, and so, when I got back to Creeting St Peter, I looked him up...
Edgar Granville was, in fact, the Liberal MP for Eye between 1929 and 1951, at a time when the constituency spread much further than it does now. I say Liberal, although he was a Liberal National from 1931, and an Independent from 1942, before rejoining the Liberal Party in 1945. He then managed to defend the seat in 1945 (by 949 votes) and in 1950 (by just 627 votes), before losing it in 1951.
He wasn't done yet though. In 1952, he joined the Labour Party, and then fought the seat again in 1955, losing by just 898 votes, before ending up in the House of Lords as Lord Granville of Eye.
A war hero, wounded at Gallipoli, writer of spy thrillers, he was clearly one of a kind. And, on his hundredth birthday, he was in his seat in the Lords to hear his birthday tributes on February 12th, 1998...
Lord Granville of Eye: Birthday Tributes
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I am sure some of your Lordships are already aware that today is an unusual and special occasion. Indeed, it is the 100th birthday of the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye--
Noble Lords: Hear, hear!
Lord Richard: --and not, if I may say so, as recorded in certain manuals, notably Dod's and Who's Who, where he is recorded as being a mere 99 years of age. I am delighted too, that the noble Lord is in his place in the Chamber today.
It is not often that your Lordships get the chance to celebrate the birthday of such a long-serving and distinguished Member of this House. I am sure that all noble Lords will be awed to learn not only that the noble Lord served in the First World War but also that he fought, among other fields of action, at Gallipoli. The noble Lord was a Member of the other place as long ago as 1929 and joined your Lordships' House-- I suppose for him comparatively recently--in 1967. I ask the whole House to join with me in wishing the noble Lord a very happy 100th birthday indeed.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to be able to follow the noble Lord the Leader of the House in associating this side of the Chamber with the elegant way in which he wished the noble Lord many happy returns of the day. We echo those sentiments. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House made clear, the noble Lord is both a distinguished Member of both Houses of Parliament and a gallant former soldier with particular connections with the Commonwealth, which I believe is an institution that all sides of the House are coming increasingly to value.
I could, perhaps, suspect that the vigour of the noble Lord is a tribute not only to the rich blood that politics encourages to flow in the veins of her practitioners, but also, if I may say so, to the preservative qualities of membership of your Lordships' House. In either case, whichever is true, we congratulate the noble Lord who embodies the great virtues of continuity in his person. We look forward to many more occasions upon which we may congratulate him in the years to come.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, perhaps I may associate these Benches with the remarks made by the Lord Privy Seal and the noble Viscount. However, they omitted to say--and I am sure that it was by oversight--that the noble Lord served as a Liberal Member of Parliament for 22 years and represented that most interesting part of Britain, East Anglia, the politics of which have always fascinated us.
It has been a life of distinction and, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, one also of courage. To put it at its very least, the thought that the noble Lord is 100 years of age today makes many of us feel a great deal younger than we supposed.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, on behalf of the Cross-Benches I wish a happy birthday to the senior of our 326 Cross-Bench Peers. Long may he continue to keep that number up.
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I associate these Benches with the congratulations to the noble Lord and send him our best wishes and many happy returns of the day.
Two days later, he passed away in a London nursing home...