Bernard Greaves, 1942-

For thirty years, Bernard Greaves has influenced Liberal, Liberal Democrat and public policy on a range of issues. Generally, he has done so by a willingness to rigorously follow through original ideas based on firm and clear principles and a painstaking application to detail. He has greatly influenced a smaller number by the force of his originality and the example of his courage.

Greaves was the first openly gay man to hold national office in a UK political party. His influence and example were the most important reasons why the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party accepted not just the formal case for law reform but the reality of openly gay lifestyles in a normal social and political setting. Bernard’s men dancing with men motion at the Young Liberal Conference in 1972 was a major achievement in its time!

Bernard Greaves was born in Longsdon, near Leek on 29 September 1942 and educated at the Leys School, Cambridge and St John’s College, Cambridge (BA Architecture; Diploma in Architecture (Cantab)). He has suffered all his life from multiple allergy syndrome, which was misdiagnosed as depression from 1965-89, since when desensitisation treatment has led to steady improvement. Several serious bouts have prevented Greaves from commitment to full-time work other than with International Voluntary Service from 1979-87, where he was Head of Fundraising and Publicity, Acting and Deputy General Secretary.

His working life has consisted of a large number of commitments, some paid and others unpaid in the fields of liberal politics, gay rights, the voluntary sector and community development and campaigning. These include: Secretary, later Political Vice-Chairman, National League of Young Liberals; Publicity Officer, Gay Rights Campaign; and Director of Policy Promotion, the Liberal Party. He planned the Liberal 1979 general election manifesto, and later acted as policy adviser to Robert Maclennan MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs and later constitutional affairs and as President of the Liberal Democrats.

Greaves was attacked, albeit not uniquely, by Jeremy Thorpe as an irresponsible revolutionary and by David Steel as a traditional Liberal incapable of adjusting to modern reality. His essential views have not changed! It would be difficult to find someone, other than Nancy Seear, who has inspired greater affection and respect from those who have worked with him than Bernard Greaves.

Greaves’ publications include: editor and essayist, Scarborough Perspectives (Young Liberal Movement, 1977); ‘Communities and Power’ in P. Hain (ed.), Community Politics (John Calder, 1976); Liberals and Gay Rights (Liberal Party Organisation, 1977); The Theory and Practice of Community Politics (with Gordon Lishman, 1980); Out from the Closet (with Bruce Galloway, ALC, 1983); Tackling Crime Together – the Liberal Democrat commitment to Safer Neighbourhoods (briefing and campaign kit, ALDC, 1993). Over eighty further articles, essays and reports are in the public domain.


Gordon Lishman was a leading Young Liberal during the late 1960s and was responsible for writing the famous community politics resolution, moved at the party’s 1970 assembly. He also co-wrote The Theory and Practice of Community Politics (1980) with Bernard Greaves.