Tim Farron paid tribute to Willie:
Willie Goodhart was a founding member of the SDP and stalwart of the Liberal Democrats. He believed passionately in social democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In writing our party’s constitution, he has left a lasting legacy that will be cherished by party members for decades to come.
I send my heartfelt sympathy to his wife Celia and his children Frances, Laura and Benjamin.
Lords Leader Dick Newby said:
Willie will be very sadly missed by friends and colleagues in the Lords. He was a doughty campaigner for human rights, for Europe, and for a fairer society, issues which he promoted tirelessly in the Lords.
He played a vital role in establishing the SDP and in its subsequent merger with the Liberal Party. He won the respect of all those with whom he worked and he will be remembered with great fondness.
Willie was an active member of the British Humanist Association. They put a lovely biography on their website and their Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
With Willie’s death, the BHA has lost a friend and Parliament has lost a heavy hitter for social justice and human rights. His work in Parliament represented not only a profound service to Humanism, but to society as a whole. He will be much missed.
Six years ago, during the 2010 election, Willie and Celia’s son Benjie wrote a hilarious, thoughtful and poignant article for the Guardian in which he described growing up with not one but two politically involved parents.
Some campaigns were more fun than others – particularly the ones where the family was all together, such as the European election when Mum stood for Northamptonshire. We tooled around the county standing in the back of a pick-up truck waving at bemused cows while Dad pleaded with the electorate through the megaphone: “Send my wife to Europe.” During that campaign, I dropped the back panel of the pick-up on my mum’s foot, breaking her toe. She fought the rest of the election in agony.
Dad fought the Kensington byelection in 1988. It was extraordinary seeing him in the national spotlight. There were 15 candidates, including Cynthia Payne and Screaming Lord Sutch, both of whom, I can proudly relate, were vanquished by Dad. Class War ran a campaign of violent ferocity, culminating in a multi-candidate debate where they threw condoms filled with excrement at the Conservative. Dad was bundled out of the door by his minder. “We went to a nearby pub to have a drink and recover, and suddenly several members of Class War turned up and we had really rather an amiable discussion.” Dad came third in the byelection, but it did have 15 candidates. If it had been a horse race, he’d have paid out on an each way bet.
Despite the work, disruption and the teasing from friends, he writes with huge pride and affection.
So what did it all mean to us, as kids? We share an almost indescribable pride in Mum and Dad: their tireless efforts to make the country a better place; their indefatigability in the face of unwinnable seats; and their humour throughout the bitterest defeats. And their ability to do it all, and have jobs, and maintain a loving, functional family.
We learned from their example. “I think it conveys something about perseverance, about not being derailed by your desired plan not coming off,” says Frances. “Each of them carried on to have impressive and successful careers.” Mum went on to be a headmistress and Dad became the Lib Dems’ shadow Lord Chancellor.
Ultimately, what gives me the most pride of all is their politics. I have loved being able to ask my parents questions on almost any ethical issue, from ID cards to the age of gay consent, human rights to redistributive taxation, and know that I will take pride in their thoughtful, intelligent answers.
Go and read the whole thing. You will be glad y0u took five minutes out of your day to do so.
I was aware of Willie Goodhart right from the time I joined the SDP back in 1983. Friends who knew him talked of a kind and funny man with a passion for human rights. He’ll be sadly missed.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings