Friday, 17 April 2009

Tribute to Sir Clement Freud

I am going to interrupt the suspension of this blog to pay tribute to Sir Clement Freud who for 14 years was the Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely and then the more bureaucratic sounding North-East Cambridgeshire, having initially won the seat in a by-election.

The lugubrious Sir Clement did not make a great impact on the House of Commons where, despite his work on freedom of information, he was not taken sufficiently seriously. The Liberals were more of a minority party than they are now and he was perhaps best known for his dog food adverts. As happens in such cases, the adverts are remembered and the product ('Minced Morsels') has been forgotten.

In order to secure his hold on the constituency, Sir Clement used to trawl the births, deaths and marriages announcements in the local press and send an appropriate letter of congratulation or commiseration. People would then approach him in the street afterwards to thank him. As he did not know which letter they received, he would reply enigmatically, 'It was the least I could do.'

The bon viveur Sir Clement was one of the last of a generation of maverick MPs, although I suppose the few independents in the House might fit that bill. These days there are two factories in Cheshire which turn out identikit MPs wearing well tailored suits and discreet ties. One factory produces Conservative MPs and the other Labour, but it is often difficult to tell the difference.

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