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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK

UK Politics

Thorpe proposed for peerage

Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder in 1979

Leading Liberal Democrats are trying to rehabilitate the reputation of the controversial former leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, by proposing he should be made a life peer.

Mr Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder his alleged former lover Norman Scott in 1979.

[ image: Nick Harvey: Has nominated Mr Thorpe]
Nick Harvey: Has nominated Mr Thorpe
The Lib Dems director of campaigns Nick Harvey MP has nominated Mr Thorpe to go forward for election in a ballot of party members to be held next month.

If Mr Thorpe polls well, then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy will be under pressure from party members to nominate him for a life peerage when the next opportunity arises.

However, the party is deeply divided over whether Mr Thorpe deserves a peerage.

Many feel he is still disgraced, and that as he is suffering from Parkinson's disease he would not be an effective member of the reformed House of Lords.

But there is an equally strong body of opinion that believes that Mr Thorpe has suffered enough and deserves the recognition of a peerage.

Leader for nine years

Mr Thorpe led the Liberal Party for nine years, after succeeding Jo Grimond as leader in 1967.

But his career ended following stories about his friendship with a former male model, Norman Scott, who claimed at a court hearing to have had a homosexual relationship with Mr Thorpe.

When an affectionate letter between the pair appeared in the press, Mr Thorpe resigned as leader.

Claims that a man was hired to kill Mr Scott led to the conspiracy charge at the Central Criminal Court. Mr Thorpe was acquitted in 1979.

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