Selective family memories

Baroness Thomas

Selective family memories

I suppose we all do it.  That is, choose which members  of our family  to highlight and which to ignore  if we have a chance to talk about our backgrounds.   But I was sad to see that in Lisa Nandy’s profile in the House Magazine recently, she omitted to say who her grandfather was.  He was a Liberal – Lord Byers, OBE, my first boss in the Lords.


Lisa is the  Labour MP for Wigan, and is considered to be a rising star in the party.   As soon as she was elected in May three years ago, I asked her to tea in the Lords.  We had a happy time talking about her life since I last met her when she was three and a half at the Opening of Parliament after the General Election of 1983.  Her grandfather was Leader of the Liberal Peers, having been Liberal MP for North Dorset from 1945 – 50.  Frank Byers had joined Gray’s Inn, following a degree in PPE at Christ Church, Oxford, where he had chaired the University Liberal Club and the Union of Liberal Students. He curtailed his studies when war broke out to enlist in the Royal Artillery, rising to the rank of Lt.Colonel.  For a time he served on Montgomery’s staff, was mentioned in despatches three times and was created Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur and awarded the Croix de Guerre with palms.     In the 1945 General Election  he stood as the Liberal candidate for North Dorset, which he won with a majority of nearly 2,000 (in the absence of a Labour candidate), one of just 12 Liberal MPs.  The following year he became the Party’s Chief Whip.  He narrowly lost the seat in 1950 when the presence of  a Labour candidate ensured a Conservative victory.  Fourteen years later he was made a Life Peer, becoming Leader of the Group in 1967, and in 1972 he was made a Privy Councillor.

In the years  before that, he did much to reorganise the Liberal Party, holding the offices of President and Chairman and director of election campaigns in the fifties and sixties.    Frank Byers was a frequent  and effective broadcaster, putting the Party’s case fluently and persuasively.  He was also a businessman, being a Director of RTZ and a part-time consultant to Marks and Spencers.  It should not be forgotten by the Liberal Democrats how much they owe to those like Frank Byers who kept the Liberal party going through the lean years of the post war era. 


What I remember most clearly about  three and a half year old Lisa Nandy  in her grandfather’s room in 1983 was that she wasn’t a bit interested in the jingling horses outside, and made her feelings quite clear, much to the chagrin of her mother who had made a difficult journey from Manchester that morning.   There is no doubt that her grandfather would be tremendously proud of his granddaughter, even if she is of a different party from his own.  I just hope that it isn’t political correctness in the Labour Party  not to talk about your Liberal grandfather, and, yes, she did talk about her Marxist father, but I wasn’t going to go there….




4 comments for “Selective family memories

  1. maude elwes
    04/10/2013 at 10:06 am

    Perhaps Lisa Nandy felt it was not in her interests to divulge a politically differing family view to her own. Felt she didn’t want to answer questions related to it. Or, was plain ashamed or embarrassed by him for some reason. We don’t all have to like or admire other members of our family simply because of blood connection. In fact, most people have a individual or two they simply cannot abide in the immediate kinfolk.

    However, although you won’t go there, because of the hot politically correct blast on the discussion on whether the tabloids should inform the public of a possible future PM having been indoctrinated, by a parent, into a less than beneficial attitude toward the country he is hoping to lead, I will. In this case, Ed Miliband and his Marxist Dad.

    From my point of view, yes, it is a hatchet job the DM is doing as they are a right wing sheet terrified the left are going to get back into power. As Miliband looks as if he is onto a winner. If they thought he was an out and out loser they wouldn’t have bothered. It’s nothing to do with them anti-semitic. That is
    Jewish newspapers wanting to shut down discussion. Make journalists fearful of being smeared by accusation of hate crime is a good way to stop any debate of whether we should have a Jewish leader. Especially at this time of possible war difficulties with the State of Israel versus Iran. A consideration that should indeed be raised for the public to discuss, as do we really know what Miliband may lean toward in such an event? The connection to the Zionist state and the need our country seems to have to stay joined at the hip with its main funder, the USA, is a big factor indeed in whether it would be in our interests as a country to have a leader predisposed toward the threats we hear so often made on our news. Two neurotic leaders would be a disaster for the entire planet in such an event. Netanyahu has always struck me as fiercely off the wall. Miliband doesn’t come across as a maniac, but, could he be? And shouldn’t we be looking at it in open discussion?

    Journalists, whether those in government like it or not, have every right to enlighten the public when they feel there is a possible threat to decisions we make collectively. Who knows if Miliband’s Dad really ‘disliked’ our country intensely and passed that feeling onto his sons. Airing it though is their duty, not simply their right under the freedom of expression.

    To me Milliband looks like a quiet, inoffensive, if dithering, guy. Actually I quite like him. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be aware of any possible character traits he may or may not have when I’m asked to vote on the leader of my country. As that is very relevant indeed.

    We knew of Thatcher’s indoctrination by her Dad the grocer. Why should this guy be any different when it comes down to family scrutiny? We know very little of Miliband except he was in the Balir government that decided collectively to change the ethnic make up of our population in order to rub the ‘right’s’ noses in multiculturalism, and that hasn’t worked out in the best interests of us a people as has it? We are all as angry as hell at the outcome of that and are frightened of what may unfold should this fierce change to our nation continue at the pace it is. However, all colours of government pursue that policy even when they pretend they don’t go along with it. As the Tories do all the time, whilst doing nothing to change it. They simply blame the left and Europe for it. Which is a red herring as 80% of immigration to this country stems from the Commonwealth. Nothing whatsoever to do with Europe.

    Scrutiny by the people of any possible leader should be mandatory. And his kicking up a fuss about it is inclined to make one wonder why he feels he should be above it. Does he have something to hide? Because his Dad being a Marxist or even disliking the UK is not something that should really be bothering him. My Dad didn’t particularly like many aspects of his country, this one, he was a Scot. Which didn’t make me or my family feel like we were a threat in any way because of his ranting about the bloody English or the heathens within it. And if anyone called me on it I would find it hilarious.

    Methinks maybe Ed doth protest too much, which can make a lot of people wonder, especially those who otherwise would not have given it a second thought. Like me.

  2. Lord Blagger
    05/10/2013 at 2:58 pm

    Ah yet another political wonk (Byers), kicked out by the electorate who decided they were not fit to rule over them, getting kicked into a well paid position, to rule over the electorate who don’t want them in that position.

    The government sticking two fingers up at the electorate as usual.

  3. GareThugHowell
    05/10/2013 at 6:53 pm

    The skills of parliament are so completely basic, if one chooses to make them thus, that running in the family ,I sometimes think, is to be deplored,
    rather than admired. Dedication to the causes of parliaments is one thing; skill and aptitude for it quite another! In the past it has been what makes the HofL what it is, an organisation for the elite and the aristocrat, latter word which seems to have been deprecated for some time now but will probably see a resurgence with the apparent recovery of a re-active government.

    I noticed the other day that the Kenyan government has a “Speaker”, probably in a unicameral system, so the speaker is all powerful, the chairman of the chamber of Kenya. To avoid confusion in reports to these islands it sounded as though the late President Kenyatta had been reincarnated, unless they have invented an office called the Kenyatta, (id est. president) I am sure we all wish Kenya well in its nation building ventures, hopefully nothing more like that. Syria has a hereditary president; a king really would not do!!

  4. Honoris Causa
    06/10/2013 at 5:29 pm

    Marxism is surely as useful an analytical tool as Machiavellianism was in its, both feared in their day.

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