Lord Beaumont of Whitley

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Biographical Information

Lord ("Tim") Beaumont (died in 2008) Once a top Liberal, and elected Liberal Party president in 1968, he joined the UK Green party in 1999, becoming its solitary Lords spokesman.

There was no evidence of such volatility in his personal relations. He was a warm host, whether in his plush, nine-bedroom 1960s Mayfair house, his 21-room 1970s Hampstead Heath mansion, with its fine modern paintings, or his recent, more modest, family home in south London.

"He was born the son of Major Michael Beaumont, the former rightwing Conservative MP for Aylesbury. His father's father, Hubert Beaumont, was the Radical MP for Eastbourne from 1906 to 1910. Tim's mother, who died when he was six, was Faith Pease, daughter of Jack Pease, a Quaker turned Anglo-Catholic, who served as Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith's chief whip. He became the first Lord Gainford and later a chairman of the BBC.

"Tim had a moneyed education. They could only stand him for a year at Eton - "I was a nasty little boy, pinching things and being a layabout" - so he was sent to Gordonstoun school in Elgin, Moray, going on to Christ Church, Oxford. There he ran the Bullingdon club and founded the Wagers club, devoted to "bringing back the devil-may-care atmosphere of the Regency Bucks". After scraping a degree in agriculture, he unexpectedly went to a theological college, Wescott House in Cambridge. Asked where he wanted to be a curate, he jokingly suggested Monte Carlo...

"As a new millionaire, he sought to correct this through a small press empire. Prism, which became the New Christian, expressed his religious views; New Outlook expressed his Liberalism. Studio Vista, purchased from Cecil Harmsworth King, who was then running the vast International Publishing Corporation, reflected his wife's artistic outlook. He also tried to save the weekly Time and Tide (a faltering rival to the New Statesman and the Spectator), launched Wonderland for children, and bought Small Car magazine - while running a Rolls Royce. He learned rapidly how expensive it was to subsidise low-circulation magazines. This qualified him to become chairman (and benefactor) of the Liberal party's publications department...

"He was on the executive of the Sexual Law Reform Society; he attracted attention in 1976 with an attack on the Pope as having "gone right round the bend" for castigating masturbation as a sin, despite the absence, he claimed, of any Bible justification. Beaumont also said he considered it his right to end his life whenever he wished...

"Curiously for such a radical Liberal, he became a leading campaigner to bring down the Callaghan-led Labour government in 1977, abandoning the Lib-Lab Pact established by Steel. For some reason, he thought he could better achieve "a new political settlement" (or proportional representation) from Margaret Thatcher. Despite this, he supported Labour's offer of devolution to Scotland and Wales.

"In 1978-80, he abandoned the Liberal benches to become coordinator of the Green Alliance, of which he was a founder. In the early 1980s, he introduced an amendment for the RSPCA to bar "deliberate infliction of severe pain or distress" on animals, and he supported Lord Houghton in pressing for controls on the use of animals in scientific procedures.

"In 1984, he resumed his dogcollar, becoming the vicar of of both St Philip's and St Luke's in Kew in west London in 1986. Having frittered away his fortune, he "needed a paid job ... and I wasn't very happy about the Liberal/Social Democratic Alliance, which I thought was very messy." Although his parishioners regularly voted Liberal, as a churchman he had to shift to the crossbenches...

"Returning to the Liberal Democrat benches in 1992, he became involved in poverty and green issues. In the debate on overseas aid, he wanted to reverse the aphorism that "aid is money taken from the taxation of the poor of the rich world, and given to the rich of the poor world, who then repay it to the rich of the rich world". He wanted aid to be given directly to the poor of the developing world... After 31 years in the Lords, on November 18 1999 he gave his maiden speech as a member of the Green party. His final switch to the Greens was partly theological. He believed, with the late MP Christopher Hollis, that "the job of practical politicians ... is to give names to what is happening and persuade people to vote for the inevitable"." [1]

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  1. guardian.co.uk Lord Beaumont of Whitley, organizational web page, accessed April 15, 2012.