Lord Longford published three rather unsatisfactory autobiographies and there were two biographies in his own lifetime. Now Peter Stanford has substantially revised his biography in the light of Longford’s papers and Elizabeth Longford’s diaries to which he was granted access after their deaths. The material gives new insights into some parts of its subject’s long life, most notably his relationship with Myra Hindley.
Longford was a lone advocate of penal reform and offenders’ aftercare in the 1950s. He founded New Bridge, the first agency for homeless youngsters, New Horizon for ex-prisoners and the Prison Reform Trust. Recommendations he made led to modern parole and prefigured the Seebohm report’s belief in a family service. He also lived to see the creation of the family courts, which he had proposed 40 years earlier. Stanford patently believes his subject was more often right than wrong and history suggests he is correct.
Longford was naive and his judgement sometimes faulty. His strength and motivation was his Catholicism. His championship of Hindley and his pornography commission brought ridicule and overshadowed much that he had done but he was one of the few truly good people most of us will ever have known.
Terry Philpot is an independent consultant.