AS A biographer John Campbell, below, is a man who certainly likes to get close to his subjects.
He has laboured for five years over his new life of Lord Jenkins of Hillhead – the late Chancellor of Oxford University and former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, who figures in most lists of ‘the Best Prime Minister We Never Had’.
After being invited to undertake the official biography of the former Labour and SDP politician, who died in 2003, by his widow Dame Jennifer, Mr Campbell was to all but move into the Jenkins’ family home in East Hendred, near Wantage.
The home of Lord Jenkins, St Amand’s at East Hendred, pictured in 1991
There he found a huge archive of papers, diaries, documents and letters carefully stored in the attic, all subsequently handed over to Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Mr Campbell said: “I was able to stay in the house, with only Jennifer there.
“It is something not every biographer is able to do, being able to live in his footsteps, as it were.”
Roy Jenkins pictured by Oxford Mail photographer Antony Moore in 1987
Mr Campbell, who has previously written biographies of Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, was an obvious choice to write the official life, having been “an enthusiastic foot soldier in the SDP”, the centralist party Roy Jenkins created and was to lead.
He and Jennifer bought St Amand’s House, in East Hendred, at auction in Abingdon, in 1965.
Roy Jenkins walks past anti-Common Market pickets outside the Oxford Town Hall in 1975
Lord Jenkins was perfectly situated to become Chancellor of Oxford University in 1987, allowing him to attend all sorts of university and college events and still sleep in his own bed every night.
But a year before his death, aged 82, Lord Jenkins told Mr Campbell: “Of all the offices I have held, the university chancellorship has given me the greatest ratio of pleasure to pain. You do not rule the university, as some image; you reign over it.”
On his gravestone in East Hendred, Jennifer chose the simple epitaph ‘Writer and Statesman’.
Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life by John Campbell is published by Jonathan Cape, price £25.
Our top stories:
8:30am Saturday 1st August 2015
DEVELOPERS wanting to transform Cowley’s Templars Square Shopping Centre said they hope their plans will spur more development in the area.
11:41am Saturday 1st August 2015
Fire crews have put out a house fire in Sibford Gower.
9:00am Saturday 1st August 2015
SAVING a man from a burning house was not the first heroic deed by postman Tony Rendell.
8:00am Saturday 1st August 2015
A WOMAN hit a row of taxis in Abingdon town centre yesterday after a “medical episode”.
7:00am Saturday 1st August 2015
A JUDGE spared a convicted drug dealer more time in jail for giving his friend £100,000 of drugs money to buy a house.
7:00am Saturday 1st August 2015
IT IS the last remnant from the intriguing wartime history of a scrapyard near Bicester.
6:30am Saturday 1st August 2015
THE father of killed Witney schoolgirl Liberty Baker has said more support is needed to stop bereaved families feeling alone and distressed.
6:00am Saturday 1st August 2015
AN EXHIBITION telling the stories of 66 men from one Oxford suburb who gave their lives in the First World War has been so successful it is to go on tour.
8:30am Friday 31st July 2015
BOBBIES will be given more time on the beat and ‘hot spots’ of crime are to be tackled after a landmark policing review.
6:00am Friday 31st July 2015
A FORMER pub in Oxford is set to be transformed into a Caribbean restaurant after sitting empty for nearly six months.
10:17am Friday 31st July 2015
CANISTERS containing an unknown substance have now been removed from a house in Cowley, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.
4:56pm Friday 31st July 2015
BUS services have been withdrawn from Oxford Station for the fourth day this week as operators battle against severe congestion.
4:31pm Friday 31st July 2015
ONE lane is currently blocked and traffic is queuing due to an accident on the M40 this afternoon.
1:10pm Friday 31st July 2015
A WOMAN has reportedly been taken to hospital after crashing into the back of a row of parked taxis in the centre of Abingdon this morning.