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Long live democracy


Choosing a political affiliation
John Julius Norwich Writer
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I'd started off, I never had a particular, any desires to be a Liberal or anything else. I suppose I'd have been a Conservative like my father if I'd been anything. But I wasn't... I'd say I wasn't really interested in politics, so I thought I'll be a cross-bencher. And then Lord Gladwyn, who had been a representative of the United Nations and had succeeded my father as ambassador in Paris, Lord Gladwyn, who was a strongly entrenched Liberal, said, 'Oh, you can't be a cross-bencher, it's crazy, it's no fun, it's so difficult, because every time you want to make a speech you've got to do all your own work. I mean, if you're a Liberal, they'll do all the research for you, the Liberal Office, you know, and they will make arrangements for you, get you a taxi. I don't know, it'll be so much easier.' So, I weakly joined the Liberal Party and then found myself with Lord Gladwyn, who was a completely humanist man, and not a very nice one, going off to these places like the Council of Europe in Strasbourg or Western European Union in Brussels or somewhere else in Luxembourg, you know, and we were going off regularly, and that was quite a good nightmare because, for example, Strasbourg, in those days, the Seat of the Council of Europe, had no airport. You could only get there by train and it was about five hours from Paris in those days, so what Gladwyn and I used to do, we used to go to Paris the night before and spend the night in the Hotel de la Gare de l'Est, which has a two-star restaurant, fortunately, and hop onto the train at seven o'clock the next morning and get to Strasbourg in time for lunch. And we did that several times, but he was not an easy man to talk to, you know. He quite liked being teased, I eventually discovered, and that helped a bit.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Paris, Strasbourg, Council of Europe

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018