Further to Derek Davies’s obituary of Lee Kuan Yew, no invited speaker, not Willy Brandt, not Oliver Tambo, not Olaf Palme, not Julius Nyerere, not Helmut Schmidt, ever transfixed a plenary session of a Labour Party conference as did Lee in 1968, deploying the less-than-popular case for continued British military presence east of Suez. He was a beguiling orator. Quite simply, LKY mesmerised senior members of the Labour cabinet.
In 1965 I had been one of six MPs from a House of Commons delegation to Sarawak and Singapore. We were invited to dinner – 16 courses – by LKY. After disgreeing with him strenuously – he adored argument – I went, on my return, to voice my opposition to the east-of-Suez policy to Harold Wilson. Polite as ever, Wilson listened and said he would make enquiries.
A fortnight later I was summoned to the PM’s room and given a laconic response with a characteristic twinkle: “Tam, do you imagine you are a better democratic socialist than that most gifted alumnus of your University of Cambridge?” Socialist, yes; but LKY was no democrat.
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