politician, social reformer
, writer, and teacher. Born into a noble and conservative Protestant family in Ireland, he converted into a socialist
and a Roman Catholic
, and was a leading member of the Labour governments of both Clement Attlee
and Harold Wilson
, in numerous capacities. He was appointed to a working peerage
by Attlee and later inherited his brother's earldom
. Once tipped as a possible prime minister, he lost influence in government and became a maverick in the House of Lords
, a powerful and untiring campaigner
for many social causes. He produced an influential report on pornography
, and worked for the rehabilitation
of criminals, including the most notorious in Britain: right up until his recent death at the age of 95. His careers also including banking and publishing.
"Lord Longford gives me the fucking horn. I reckon it's the way he does his hair, you know." -- Derek and Clive. Yes, that was distinctive too: bald in front, unruly slightly-mad-professor locks pushing up from behind, and his long jowly face and thin glasses.
He was born Francis Aungier Pakenham on 5 December 1905, in London. The Longfords' ancestral home was at Pakenham Hall in Co. Westmeath, in Ireland. His father the fifth Earl of Longford was killed leading his troops at Gallipoli in the Great War, and Frank Pakenham's elder brother succeeded to the title. Frank studied at Eton then at New College, Oxford, where he gained a first for his studies on banking and currency.
His friends at Oxford included the conservatives Evelyn Waugh and Randolph Churchill and the socialist Hugh Gaitskell, future leader of the Labour Party. He preached conservatism as the morally better way of achieving social reform, but was gradually converted, notably by the influence of Elizabeth Harman, whom he met at Gaitskell's. They married in 1931, she stood as the socialist candidate in Cheltenham in 1935, and he spoke on her behalf, avowing her personal qualities but still distancing himself from her socialism. In 1936 a meeting addressed by the fascist leader Oswald Mosley broke out into violence, Pakenham joined in the fighting, and made the decision to convert to Labour as he lay recuperating from his injuries.
In 1938 his Christianity shifted from nominal to zealous, and he became a Roman Catholic. He was received into the Church in 1940, at Evelyn Waugh's intercession, just before going into action as a volunteer officer. However, he quickly had to be invalided out, to his shame.
Since 1932 Frank Pakenham had been a lecturer in politics at Christ College, Oxford. In 1941 he became an assistant to Sir William Beveridge, compiling the report that was to lay the foundations of the welfare state. In 1945 Pakenham stood for Parliament. He did not win, but the incoming prime minister, Clement Attlee, created him Baron Pakenham in order to use his talents in the Lords.
Lord Pakenham had a varied career in the Attlee government: Under-Secretary of State at the War Office in 1946, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1947, Member of the Privy Council and Minister of Civil Aviation 1948, and First Lord of the Admiralty 1951. Later that year the government lost office. In this period he was the minister in charge of rebuilding Germany, and Konrad Adenauer hailed him as one of the founders of West Germany. Pakenham remained on the Labour front bench but also served as the head of the National Bank between 1955 and 1963.
In 1961, with the death of his brother, Lord Pakenham became the seventh Earl of Longford. Under the Wilson government he was Leader of the House of Lords from 1964 to 1968 and secretary of state for the colonies in 1965-66. Longford resigned after a dispute over the school leaving age, and maintained a more independent line on many subjects. He was also head of the publishing house of Sidgwick and Jackson from 1970 to 1985; and wrote several books, including half of a biography of Eamon de Valera.
Between 1971 and 1972 he organized debate on pornography, since censorship had only recently been abolished, and he felt that something had to be done about it without reimposing censorship. He and fellow-thinkers composed a report Pornography, published to much publicity in 1972.
His other most prominent work over most of his life was visiting prisons and seeking the improvement, rehabilitation, and forgiveness of prisoners. This culminated in a report Causes of Crime in 1958. He founded an outreach group called New Bridge. In 1968 he took up the cause of Myra Hindley, the young woman who had participated in the horrific Moors Murders of children, and his persistent claim that she was a reformed character, and his friendship with her, were the single thing people most associated Longford with in later years.
He was created a Knight of the Garter in 1971. He and Elizabeth had eight children: Lord Longford died on 3 August 2001.