Who next? Princess Margaret kept the most swinging salon in all of Swinging London. Princess Margaret, who all her life was uncommonly devout even by the standards of senior members of the Royal Family. Not everyone would have agreed with her about that. But no one thought that it, any more than her royal status, prevented her from being, again, at the very heart of Zeitgeist. The ludicrous story of her "secret son" has lately been revived.
Sir Cyril was wrong about asbestos. But nobody is perfect. And he was fighting for a Rochdale industry, which was at least some excuse. In him, there came together several of the best features of the old Liberalism. He embodied individuality, municipalism (it is just priceless that his mother served as a cleaner at the Town Hall during the day and then as his Lady Mayoress at that same Town Hall in the evenings), local communitarian populism, profit-sharing, unashamed provincialism, patriotism in general and reverence for Parliament in particular, traditional family values, the Nonconformist conscience, and the working and lower-middle-class self-help and self-improvement that, as well as informing his strong commitment to education, also placed him in the same tradition as the Rochdale Pioneers of the co-operative movement.
Like them, he came out of Rochdale as a centre of Unitarianism due to the coincidence there of at least two of the movements that coalesced into that denomination during the nineteenth century. One derived from the Great Ejection and was related to such phenomena as the Dutch Remonstrandt Brotherhood, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Socinian 'New Licht' within the early Free Church of Scotland, and the descent of New England Puritanism into little more than "the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Neighborhood of Boston"; all alike are stark, and currently timely, warnings of the perils of hyper-Augustinianism. The other derived from the explosive preaching of Joseph Cooke within early Methodism, the Cookite experience being a stark, and currently timely, warning of the dangers of departure from the truths that the Augustinian tradition is both keenest to articulate and most successful in articulating.
But Sir Cyril seemed to point to an earlier time, when Unitarianism was still in some sense Christian rather than post-Christian or whatever it is now. Yes, yes, I know. But on both points, you know what I mean. He was totally pro-life on all issues but one, and even that, his mercifully never realised desire to restore capital punishment (also the position of at least one other Liberal MP of the period), placed him within the tradition that correctly identified an inseparability between uncompromising civil liberty and the vigorous sentencing of those whose guilt could therefore be accepted as having been proved beyond reasonable doubt. His defence of the preborn child was such that his eulogy was delivered by no less a pro-life figure than Lord Alton, who recorded that in the end Sir Cyril had changed his mind on the death penalty.
The likes of Oliver Kamm and Damian Thompson are in no position to judge either Sir Jimmy or Sir Cyril. Among other things, Kamm is financially dependent on the newspaper that prints Page Three. As for Thompson, the Catholic Herald now at least implicitly admits that in his time as Editor-in-Chief he employed the late Fr Kit Cunningham conditional upon his predatory sexual interest in boys, in that it no longer removes my comments pointing this out, so he should take up the matter there if he has any compliant about my saying it.
Furthermore, the latter-day habit of the Police, of ostentatiously issuing moral judgements from the steps of courthouses and such like, ought not to be extended to the dead in the furtherance of raids, both on the now-unfashionable principles that they embodied in their public lives, and on the money that they left behind them. Are the Police being lined up for a cut? I think we should be told.