- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

LONDON, Jan. 5 (UPI) — Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who died Sunday at his home at the age of 82, was praised by Prime Minister Tony Blair as "one of the most remarkable people ever to grace British politics."

Jenkins, who served in British politics for some five decades, collapsed and died in Oxfordshire, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

As Roy Jenkins, he was the chancellor of the Exchequer under the Labor government of Prime Minister Harold Wilson. In 1981, Jenkins formed the breakaway Social Democrat Party.

Lord Healey told the BBC that the formation of the SDP, which drew 27 members of Parliament from the Labor Party, was responsible for Margaret Thatcher's election in 1983 as prime minister.

"So without Roy, Thatcher would never really have happened," he said.

Lord Rodgers told the BBC that Jenkins had a very inquisitive mind and was a brilliant conversationalist.

"He was without question one of the greatest Britons of the last half of the 20th century both as a politician and as a writer," Sir David Steel, under whom the Liberal Party merged with the SDP, told the BBC.

"He was the most delightful friend and companion anyone could wish to enjoy."

Jenkins will go down in British history as the founder of a new political party only because the Labor Party lost an election in 1970 that would have made him foreign secretary and probably prime minister.

He was chancellor of the Exchequer — the British equivalent of the U.S. secretary of the treasury — during an election year in which Labor had lost, apparently because of the tight budget he had presented.

In November 1979 Jenkins analyzed the failings of Labor in a lecture that hinted at the formation of the Social Democrat Party. He gave the lecture while he was serving a four-year term as president of the European Commission, headquartered in Brussels. He titled it: "Home Thoughts from Abroad."

On Jan. 25, 1981, after he returned to London, Jenkins, David Owens, Shirley Williams and William Rodgers issued "The Limehouse Declaration," which in effect announced a new political party to "change the sterile and rigid framework of British politics" and "create an open, classless and more equal society."

Jenkins was the SDP's first parliamentary candidate and showed surprising strength even though he failed to win the seat from Warrington. Then Williams entered the lists in the Crosby constituency and was elected to the House of Commons.

Born Nov. 11, 1920, Jenkins lived a regimented life and liked to have his schedule arranged in detail in advance. He spent most of World War II using his knowledge of mathematics and logic trying to break German codes.

Jenkins doted on good food and good wine, and political commentators sometimes would criticize him for his preferences.

"The only thing he's ever fought for is a good table in a fashionable restaurant," said one detractor. "Jenkins hasn't been so animated since he sent an avocado back as past its best," alleged another.

British TV impersonators mimicked him because he lisped on the letter "r." He was considered a good conversationalist with a wide range of knowledge.

His knowledge of money and monetary systems made him one of the best chancellors of the Exchequer of his time.

Jenkins was the only child of Arthur and Hattie Jenkins. His father was a miner who served three months during the General Strike of 1926 for inciting miners to riot and later became a member of Parliament and an aide of Prime Minister Clement Attlee. His mother became a magistrate.

Roy Jenkins met his wife, Jennifer, at a socialist summer school. The mother of two sons and a daughter, she was also a magistrate.

Roy Jenkins was elected to Parliament in 1948 and served for nearly 30 years in such posts as minister of Aviation, chancellor of the Exchequer and home secretary in which role he helped liberalize the laws relating to abortion and homosexuality. He defended these legal changes, which some criticized as leading to "the permissive society," as really bringing about "a civilized society."

He wrote several well-regarded books — which he penned in longhand — of biography and current affairs, including recent best-selling biographies of William Gladstone, the great 19th-century statesman, and Winston Churchill. He admired both men greatly, but confided that he thought the Tory Churchill an even greater man than the Liberal Gladstone. Well-traveled, Jenkins preferred trains to other modes of transportation.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide