Richard Wilson on the political trajectory of the former Conservative cabinet minister's career

Michael Heseltine's presence at a Liberal Democrat press conference (Heseltine lends support at Lib Dem conference, 28 November) brings a 90-year schism to an end. One seldom-noted fact is that the ex-Tory minister is the last active politician to have fought an election as a National Liberal, having contested Gower for the centre-right faction in 1959. The faction split from the Liberal party when it joined Ramsay MacDonald's national government in 1931.

In the 1959 general election, the group won 19 seats, three times as many as Jo Grimond's Liberal party. Its last few MPs, led by David Renton, merged with the Conservatives in 1968, the party was in talks about a Liberal reunion throughout its existence. The divorce had been over tariffs and free trade. Heseltine's appearance on the Liberal platform, alongside Chuka Umunna, therefore brought the story full circle.

Richard Wilson

Kingston University

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