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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Campaigner Lord Longford dies
Lord Longford
Lord Longford: Willing to fight the fight
Labour peer Lord Longford has died at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, a hospital spokesman said.

Aged 95, he came in for repeated stern criticism by the public and press for his campaign to secure the release of celebrated criminals, in particular Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

He once described Hindley as a "delightful" person and argued that you could loathe what people did but not what they were.


It was a great life and he was a great man

Lord Longford's family
A statement issued on behalf of Lord Longford's family said: "Lady Longford and the family announce with deep sadness the death of Frank Pakenham, Earl of Longford, at the age of 95.

"It was a great life and he was a great man."

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who heard of Lord Longford's death while in Mexico, said he was "a man of passionate integrity and humanity and a great reformer committed to modernising the law while also caring deeply for individuals".

Born on 5 December 1905 the second son of the fifth Earl of Longford, Frank Pakenham was educated at Eton and Oxford.

Conversion

At 25 he joined the Conservative Party but his future wife, Elizabeth, who he had met at Oxford, persuaded him to become a socialist and convert to Roman Catholicism from Protestantism.

The couple had eight children together.

Lord Longford with Bronson's wife Saira
Lord Longford attended the wedding reception of prisoner Charles Bronson
His first cabinet post came under Harold Wilson as Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Lords.

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

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

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said Lord Longford was always willing to challenge people and generate debate.

"I always assumed he was going to be around to fight the fight that no-one else has the courage to fight," she told BBC News 24.

'Kindly and thoughtful'

She said Lord Longford's dedication to penal reform went back almost 50 years.


I remember Lord Longford as a great friend and a man not afraid to be different

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
"Public discussion about what prison is for and why we send people there and how much it costs and what to do with people when they are there is absolutely central to a democratic and humane society," she said.

"He was one of the most important proponents of that debate."

Former Labour MP Tony Benn, who served in Harold Wilson's government with Lord Longford from 1964-68, remembered the peer as a "kindly and thoughtful" man.

Myra Hindley
Lord Longford described Myra Hindley as a 'delightful person'
He said the controversy over his support for Hindley should not be allowed to overshadow memories of his pre-war opposition to the appeasement of Hitler and his work on the Beveridge reforms which led to the creation of the welfare state.

The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, paid tribute to Lord Longford's loyalty to his faith.

"He was an outstanding Christian witness who devoted his entire life to the Catholic faith. May he rest in peace."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Higham
"He was a campaigner of immense courage"
Francis Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform
"We will miss him in many ways"
Lord Healey
"He was a very good minister"
See also:

03 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tributes to humanist peer
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