Obituary: Lesley Cunliffe

At a party in New York in 1979, writes John Calder [further to the obituary of Lesley Cunliffe, 2 April], I met a worried businessman called Hume who, hearing that I was returning to London the next day, told me about his wild daughter to whom he had given a good education and comfortable home, but who had become a drop-out needing help. He could not understand where he had gone wrong.

Two days later I contacted Lesley Cunliffe (her maiden name was Hume), who had recently left her husband, Marcus Cunliffe, a Professor of American Literature at Sussex University. I found her charming but jobless, and recruited her to be my political secretary in the forthcoming election campaign, in which I was standing as an MEP for Central Scotland.

She brought along her current boyfriend, Stan Gebler-Davies, a journalist on the Evening Standard and Punch, who became my unpaid press-secretary, late night telephone answerer, drinking companion, and source of endless jokes for my speeches.

She herself charmed my supporters of all classes and my Tory opponents as well (I stood as a Liberal), and made me seem more conventional than I in fact was. With her Scottish name and soft American accent, diluted by years in Britain among academics, she fitted in easily to the various strata of town and country society in Fife and Perthshire and was totally accepted there.

Her penchant for change, adventure and new experience in no way corrupted the genuinely nice, decent and conventional person she was at bottom, kind and generous, humorous and optimistic, with a social conscience. Her father had reason to be proud, not worried.

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