Frank Longford

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Lord Longford (died 2001)

"Though conducted simultaneously, the two crusades that made Frank Longford, who has died aged 95, a household name in Britain were an odd combination. The first, launched in the early 1970s, aimed to outlaw pornography and presented him as a prurient reactionary and a shameless hypocrite touring the sex clubs that he wanted to close down. The second, which continued for the last three decades of his life, attempted to win parole for the moors murderess, Myra Hindley. Here Longford was at his most liberal, Christian and naive, building on a lifetime of interest in prison reform, to argue that Hindley, and indeed all offenders, could be rehabilitated if society was prepared to forgive.

"Of the two, it was his lonely battle to help Hindley that revealed the true man. The pornography escapade was an aberration, embarked upon against the advice of old friends and under the influence of Mary Whitehouse and anti-libertarians. From the day his report came out, Longford rarely returned to the subject.

"It was in the area of penal reform that he made his most lasting contribution. A Labour politician, who spent a record 22 years on the Lords frontbench, held junior office under Clement Attlee in the 1940s and later sat in Harold Wilson's cabinets, Longford could, when he resigned in 1968, have rested on his laurels. But he was not a conventional politician, and retirement gave him the freedom to take up the unpopular cause that was closest to his heart without fear of damaging his party...

"He founded the New Bridge in 1955, the first organisation dedicated to ex-prisoners' welfare. In 1970, he established, in New Horizon, the first drop-in centre for homeless teenagers...

"In opposition after 1951, Hugh Gaitskell, who had shared rooms with Longford at Oxford and referred to him as his "oldest friend", kept him at the centre of Labour affairs, even when he became chairman of a City clearing bank. The appointment caused some raised eyebrows in the square mile, where Longford was blackballed from at least one financiers' club...

"By his own admission he was "ineffective" in the treacherous atmosphere of Wilson's cabinets. Even as Colonial Secretary in 1966, he was so dispirited that he failed to master his brief and was quickly removed...

"Wilson talked often of sacking Longford, so when he resigned from government in January 1968 over the abandonment of a commitment to raising the school-leaving age, it was a matter of jumping before being pushed. If Benn, Richard Crossman and Barbara Castle all recorded their relief at his departure in their diaries, the Queen continued to hold him in high esteem. In 1972, she made him a knight of the garter

"After 1968, Longford devoted himself to his campaigns and to publishing. He had already produced several volumes of autobiography and one book - Peace By Ordeal, on the background to the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty - that was regarded as a classic. But his later efforts, while tackling ambitious subjects like humility and forgiveness, were politely, though unenthusiastically, received." [1]

He was assistant to Sir William Beveridge on his landmark report of 1942 which laid the basis for the Welfare State.

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  1. Lord Longford,, accessed June 28, 2010.