A bungled plot by Left-wing students to kidnap Alec Douglas-Home, the Conservative prime minister, has been revealed for the first time in the coded diaries of Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor. The unpublished papers, some of which are written in a shorthand system that was translated by staff at GCHQ, disclose that the Prime Minister averted abduction by offering his would-be kidnappers beer.
In an entry dated January 9, 1977, the peer notes down how Sir Alec described the bizarre episode, which took place in April 1964, to a shooting party at Birkhill in Scotland when the prime minister had just announced that there would be an election in October.
He wrote: “An odd story of the 1964 election never published.” Alec (then Prime Minister) was staying with John and Priscilla Tweedsmuir, who had no room for Alec’s private bodyguard. He went to the nearest town (Aberdeen) and John and Priscilla left Alec for a time alone in the house. There’s a knock at the door. The door is answered by the PM in person. A group of Left-wing students from Aberdeen University stands on the other side. They said they were going to kidnap Alec. He responded, “I suppose you realize if you do, the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300.” He asked and received permission to pack a few things and was given 10 minutes’ grace. After that, they were offered and accepted beer. John and Priscilla returned and the kidnap project was abandoned.
Unknown to Sir Alec, the students tailed his car. They planned to contrive an accident, block the car, and take him to a house in Aberdeen for a few hours then release him.
The bodyguard swore Alec to secrecy as his job would have been in peril. Sir Alec first ran into the Aberdeen University students at the Scottish Unionist conference, where they demanded a forfeit for charity in return for not kidnapping him. Assuming it was a joke, the prime minister played along and gave them £1.