Gaston Thorn

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Dick Leonard's obituary of Gaston Thorn [30 August] is, surely, uncharacteristically harsh, writes Tam Dalyell. In 1975 James Callaghan, as Foreign Secretary, invited me to a lunch, of eight people in all, to meet and talk to Thorn. Leonard is correct in saying that Thatcher "argued strongly on his [Thorn's] behalf" – so did Callaghan, whose original choice Thorn was. What I query is Leonard's claim that Etienne Davignon "would almost certainly have been a better choice".

Leonard reported on the Commission from Brussels and perhaps had an insider's point of view. As a member of the indirectly elected British Labour delegation, 1976-79, I think I speak for most, if not all, of my British colleagues, who found Davignon less than helpful over union and industrial affairs, for which he was then responsible.

It is to Thorn's credit that, long before he became president of the Commission, and during his presidency, he worked hard on Greek, Spanish and Portuguese entry into the Community, when many others hesitated. As Colette Flesch, MEP and mayor of Luxembourg city put it to me, "Gaston gets things done."

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