Forty Years On: Roger Pincham Reflects
8th May 2013  |  1 comment

It is hard for me to credit that a person has to be well over 50 to have attended the early meetings of the Gladstone Club. My memories of Selsdon Man, the 3-day week and the sterling crisis in the 1970s, are as vivid as ever. Inflation was rampant and threatened to destroy many of the familiar landmarks of London social and political life. At one point we expected the National Liberal Club to close within a month and parents paying school fees expected a sharp increase term by term rather than year by year. The price of oil had risen sharply in 1973 but we had yet to understand how such changes would impact upon everyday life. Indeed, Harold Wilson reassured the nation that ‘the pound in your pocket is still worth the same’.

I had dipped my toes in the political pond when fighting the Tory stronghold of Leominster in 1970. My vision was to restore at least some of the fine qualities of Gladstonian Liberalism. It was a time when the top rate of taxation on earned income was 83% with the surcharge on unearned income. At the same time, those who had the luck to get planning permission to build on a piece of land could thereby make as much money as they might make in half a lifetime. In short, I was convinced that unless the inspiration of Henry George to tax land rather than work or enterprise, could be revived, we were headed for an increasingly unequal and divided society. My campaign book for the 1970 election was Winston Churchill’s The People’s Rights. The only one of his volumes which had not been republished since it first appeared in 1910. I wonder why?

There is, of course, much to be said about the subsequent history and the combination of technological advance, cheap, well-made goods from the emerging nations and the discovery of North Sea oil which have given the United Kingdom more prosperity than seemed possible in the 1970s.

Members were encouraged to express their individual convictions without the fear of being ridiculed or shouted down. On the other hand, they were expected to explain themselves and be ever on the lookout for finer and more intelligent solutions to the problems of the day.

I cannot sign off this ‘Blog No. 1’ without paying tribute to Anne and Peter Fennell who breathed new life into the Gladstone Club when, after so many older members had either passed away or moved away, I was inclined to accept that the Club was close to its end. Maybe there are not now the feelings of passion and desperation that there were in the 1970s. For one thing, the Cold War is over and we no longer live under the threat of nuclear holocaust. But if the threat of World War Three has receded, we are now groping for ways to cope with the more localised threats of civil war and terrorism which seem out of the grasp of conventional military action.

I believe that our youngest active member in the early days was in his mid-teens. I know of a few lively teenagers who today take a similarly keen interest in public affairs. We should do what we can to inspire them to fight against the evils of tyranny, poverty and ignorance with the same tireless zeal that Mr. Gladstone had in his mid-80s.

With very best wishes,

11th June 2013 15:40
Driving to the Hay Festival yesterday we saw many familiar road signs to places like Ledbury which reminded us of Roger's campaign standing as the Liberal candidate for Leominster. We had a few exciting but exhausting weekends campaigning with local and 'London' campaigners trying to get Roger elected. Heady and inspiring days in dire times for our country. While I was not a 'founding member' of the Gladstone club I did join in the first year of the club's existence. Thank you Roger for your 'Blog No. 1'. I very much support your tribute to Anne and Peter Fennell for the good job they are doing in running the Gladstone Club. Best wishes Peter.

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