Jo Grimond

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The Lord Grimond
Jo Grimond in 1963 (3x4 crop).jpg
Grimond in 1963
Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
10 May 1976 – 7 July 1976
Preceded byJeremy Thorpe
Succeeded byDavid Steel
In office
5 November 1956 – 17 January 1967
DeputyDonald Wade (1962–1964)
Preceded byClement Davies
Succeeded byJeremy Thorpe
Liberal Chief Whip
In office
February 1950 – 5 November 1956
LeaderClement Davies
Preceded byFrank Byers
Succeeded byDonald Wade
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
12 October 1983 – 24 October 1993
Member of Parliament
for Orkney and Shetland
In office
23 February 1950 – 13 May 1983
Preceded byBasil Neven-Spence
Succeeded byJim Wallace
Personal details
Joseph Grimond

29 July 1913
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Died24 October 1993(1993-10-24) (aged 80)
Glasgow, Scotland
Political party
(m. 1938)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

Joseph Grimond, Baron Grimond, CH, CBE, TD, PC (/ˈɡrɪmənd/; 29 July 1913 – 24 October 1993), known as Jo Grimond, was a British politician, leader of the Liberal Party for eleven years from 1956 to 1967 and again briefly on an interim basis in 1976.

Grimond was a long-term supporter of Scottish home rule; and, during his leadership, he successfully argued that the Liberal Party support the abolition of Britain's nuclear arsenal.[1]

Early life[edit]

Grimond's birthplace

Grimond was born in St Andrews, Fife, and was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford. He was at school and university with, among others, cricket commentator Brian Johnston and playwright William Douglas-Home. He received a first-class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He later became a barrister, being admitted to the bar as a member of Middle Temple.[citation needed]

Member of Parliament[edit]

After serving as a Major in World War II, he was selected by the Liberal Party to contest Orkney and Shetland, the most northerly constituency in the United Kingdom. He narrowly missed capturing the seat in 1945 but entered Parliament at the 1950 general election for the constituency. The Liberals and their successors, the Liberal Democrats, have continuously retained the seat to the present day.

Grimond continued to represent the constituency until he retired from politics in 1983, and regularly polled more than 60% of the votes cast in the northern Scottish archipelagos.

Leader of the Liberal Party[edit]

The party Grimond inherited from former leader Clement Davies had commanded barely 2.5% of the vote at the general election of 1955, but even that figure amounted to a modest revival in Liberal Party fortunes compared with 1951. This progress increased under the leadership of Grimond who proved himself to be a man of considerable personal charm and intelligence, with substantial gifts as public speaker and as an author. Widely respected as well as trusted, he ensured that by the time he left the leadership in 1967, the Liberals had once again become a notable political force.

It was during his tenure that the first post-war Liberal revival took place: under Grimond's leadership, the Liberals doubled their seat tally and won historic by-elections at Torrington in 1958 (the first by-election gain by the Liberal Party for 29 years), Orpington in 1962, and Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles in 1965.

In 1962, the Liberals almost succeeded in capturing Blackpool North, West Derbyshire and Chippenham from the Conservatives and Leicester North East from Labour. Grimond's dynamic and principled leadership proved attractive to many young aspiring politicians, including John Pardoe and three future party leaders, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown and Sir Menzies Campbell.

In 1967, having led the party through three general elections, he made way for a younger leader, the charismatic Jeremy Thorpe. In 1976, when Thorpe was forced to resign because of a scandal, Grimond stepped in as interim leader until the election of a replacement, David Steel.[2]

Among other posts, Grimond was a barrister and publisher in the 1930s, an army major during World War II, Secretary of the National Trust for Scotland from 1947 to 1949, and held the Rectorships of the University of Edinburgh and the University of Aberdeen and the Chancellorship of the University of Kent at Canterbury (elected in 1970). His many books include The Liberal Future (1959, credited with reinvigorating radical liberalism as a coherent modern ideology), The Liberal Challenge (1963), and Memoirs (1979).[citation needed]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1983 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.[citation needed]

Retirement and death[edit]

Upon leaving the House of Commons, he was created a life peer as Baron Grimond, of Firth in the County of Orkney on 12 October 1983.[3] He remained devoted to his former parliamentary constituency, and was buried in Finstown on Orkney.

Marriage and children[edit]

In 1938, Grimond married liberal politician Laura Bonham Carter (1918–1994). His wife was the granddaughter of the former Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, and the daughter of the influential Liberal politician and peer Violet Asquith (1887–1969) and her politician and civil servant husband, Maurice Bonham Carter. Laura Grimond was also the sister of another life peer, Mark Bonham Carter, (1922–1994) who was the victor of the 1958 by-election at Torrington. The couple had four children:

  • (Joseph) Andrew Grimond (26 March 1939 – 23 March 1966),[citation needed] a sub-editor of The Scotsman, lived in Edinburgh until his suicide at the age of 26.
  • Grizelda "Gelda" (Jane) Grimond (1942–2017), who had a daughter Katherine (born 1973) by the film and stage director Tony Richardson. Her daughter Katherine Hess is married to Steven Hess, and had three children as of 2017.
  • John (Jasper) Grimond (born October 1946), a former foreign editor of The Economist as Johnny Grimond, now writer at large for the publication, who in 1973 married Kate Fleming (born 1946), eldest daughter of the writer Peter Fleming and actress Celia Johnson, and the couple have three children together. He is the main author of The Economist Style Guide.[4]
  • (Thomas) Magnus Grimond (born 13 June 1959),[5] journalist and financial correspondent, married to travel author Laura Grimond (née Raison), and has four children.


  • The Liberal Future (Faber and Faber, London, 1959)
  • The Liberal Challenge (Hollis and Carter, London, 1963)
  • (with Brian Nevel) The Referendum (Rex Collings, London, 1975)
  • The Common Welfare (Temple Smith, London, 1978)
  • Memoirs (Heinemann, London, 1979)
  • A Personal Manifesto (Martin Robertson, Oxford, 1983)
  • The St. Andrews of Jo Grimond (Alan Sutton, St. Andrew's, 1992)

Grimond was also a prolific writer of pamphlets: see the McManus biography (below) for a complete list of publications.


  1. ^ "Liberal Democrat History Group". Archived from the original on 18 May 2011.
  2. ^ BBC website – Jeremy Thorpe – Former Liberal Party Leader in the UK. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ "No. 49511". The London Gazette. 18 October 1983. p. 13655.
  4. ^ "The Hon. John Grimond". Debretts. Archived from the original on 12 June 2013.
  5. ^ Barberis, 2005 p. 81


Further reading[edit]

  • Michael McManus, Jo Grimond: Towards the Sound of Gunfire (Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2001)
  • Peter Sloman, "Jo Grimond and the Liberal Revival, 1956–64," in The Liberal Party and the Economy, 1929–1964 (2014) doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723509.003.0008

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Liberal Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Liberal Party
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Academic offices
Preceded by Rector of the University of Edinburgh
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Preceded by Rector of the University of Aberdeen
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Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Kent
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