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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Lord Longford: Aristocratic moral crusader
Lord Longford's campaign to secure the release of celebrated criminals, in particular the Moors murderer Myra Hindley, caused constant derision in the public and the press.

While he could accept the label "eccentric", he objected to being called a "saintly fool".

Francis Pakenham at school
As a schoolboy at Eton

The second son of the fifth Earl of Longford, Frank Pakenham was educated at Eton and Oxford where he gained a First in Modern Greats.

At 25, he joined the Conservative Party but his future wife Elizabeth, who he had met at Oxford, helped persuade him to become a socialist and convert to Roman Catholicism from the Irish Protestant ascendancy into which he had been born.

They were married in 1931, and seven years later, Pakenham was adopted as prospective Parliamentary candidate for Oxford.

Longford's wedding in 1931
His wedding to Elizabeth in 1931

Soon after the outbreak of World War II broke out he was invalided out of the army through illness.

He suffered a nervous breakdown at the feeling of humiliation he felt and he said the experience left him with a deep compassion for the underdog.

He decided to contribute to the nation's future through government instead

He worked with Lord Beveridge, during the war, in his researches on social security - the ensuing Beveridge Report laid the foundations of the post-war welfare state.

Longford in the army
The experience of being invalided out of the army affected his whole outlook on life

He became a Baron in 1945 and Clement Atlee gave him a succession of ministerial jobs in his government including Minister for Civil Aviation.

His first cabinet post came under Harold Wilson as Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Lords. In 1965 he was appointed Colonial Secretary.

He reverted to the office of Lord Privy Seal in 1966 but resigned two years later in protest at the decision to defer the raising of the school-leaving age.

Longford outside sex club
Researching in Copenhagen's red light district

Lord Longford was an active social worker and was chairman of the National Society for Physically Handicapped Children, of Mencap, and of the National Youth Employment Council.

He also presided over various inquiries relating to crime and punishment and the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners.

In 1971, he set up his own private study-group with a membership ranging from the Archbishop of York to Malcolm Muggeridge and Cliff Richard, "to investigate the incipient menace of pornography in Britain".

He defied public lampooning by visiting sex clubs.

The group's report recommended more severe penalties for traders in pornography, steps to raise the moral standards of films, television and radio and a new definition of obscenity.

Though the report stirred up wide public debate, it did not lead to any government action.

Myra Hindley
Myra Hindley, his cause celebre

Lord Longford, who succeeded his brother, the Sixth Earl, in 1961, had several books published including a study of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, works about crime and punishment, an official biography of Pope John Paul II and an autobiography.

In later life, it was Lord Longford's prison visits and continued pleas on behalf of Myra Hindley that attracted debate.

He described Myra Hindley as a "delightful" person and said you could loathe what people did but should not loathe what they were because human personality was sacred even though human behaviour was very often appalling.

Lord and Lady Longford
His happy marriage was his biggest success

Each day he would read from the Gospels and pray four times.

"My whole aspiration is to live up to Christian standards", he said.

He enjoyed a long and happy marriage to Elizabeth Longford, the author and biographer, and they had eight children.

Although he will be regarded by many as misguided, Lord Longford's courage and sincerity in pursuing unpopular causes in the face of formidable opposition and ridicule were unquestioned.

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