Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

Former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe – whose alleged affair with Norman Scott rocked British politics in the 1970s – has died aged 85.

Thrope was elected leader of the Liberals in 1967, promising to turn the party into a radical pioneering force.

But his political career ended a decade later when an acquaintance, Norman Scott, claimed to have had a love affair with Thorpe in the early 1960s, at a time when male same-sex activity was illegal in Britain.

The story broke when Scott, a former male model, was appearing at a court in Barnstaple on a minor social security charge.

During the hearing, Scott shouted out, “I am being hounded because of my sexual relationship with Jeremy Thorpe.” He gave a statement to the police but no action was taken.

Thorpe issued an immediate denial but when an affectionate letter between them appeared in the press, Thorpe resigned as leader in 1976.

He was then charged with conspiring to murder Scott. Thorpe was acquitted of the charges in 1979, shortly after losing his seat in the general election.

Not long after the end of the trial Thorpe was found to have Parkinson’s disease and retired from public life.

In 1999 Thorpe published his memoirs, entitled ‘In My Own Time’, in which he described key episodes in his political life. He did not, however, shed any further light on the Norman Scott affair. Thorpe never made any public statements regarding his sexual orientation.

Thorpe was married to interior decorator Caroline Allpass (1938–1970), the daughter of Warwick Allpass and Marcell William, in May 1968. Their son Rupert was born in 1969. Caroline Thorpe was killed in a car crash in June 1970.

The Liberal and SDP parties formally merged in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats. A small splinter Liberal Party was formed in 1989 by former party members opposed to the merger.