A few words of gratitude as Margaret Sharp takes her leave

Margaret SharpIt does seem that the news over the past fortnight or so has been dominated by people saying goodbye to spend more time with their families or whatever. In some cases, they will be more missed than in others, and, on this occasion, it is time to mark the retirement from the House of Lords of our longtime spokesperson on Universities, Baroness (Margaret) Sharp of Guildford, who has decided to take up the option to retire at the still relatively spritely age of 77.

Margaret is another of those whose work over many years led to a triumph celebrated by others, in that it was her success in reducing the Conservative majority in Guildford from over 20,000 to a rather more slender 4,500 that helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001.

An economist of some regard, Margaret taught at the London School of Economics, as well as working in the National Economic Development Office in the 1970s, before becoming politically active with the onset of the Social Democrats.

She first fought Guildford as the SDP candidate in 1983, achieving 33.4% of the vote (an increase of 12.2% over the 1979 result), maintaining her share of the vote in 1987, 1992 and 1997, before accepting a seat in the House of Lords in 1998, where she spoke most frequently on issues relating to science, technology and universities. A tireless advocate for the university sector, she constantly, but gently, chided Ministers over issues that threatened research funding or risked reducing choice. Indeed, this week she was impressing upon the Minister the importance of the Erasmus Programme.

Behind the scenes, she chaired the policy working group which drew up the Party’s policy on higher and further education and was central to its stance rejecting top-up fees in the run-up to the 2005 general election.

The Liberal Democrat benches in the Lords may have lost some more well-known members over the past year, but it is hard to imagine that they have lost many harder workers. Thank you, Margaret, for all that you have done, with hopes for a long and happy retirement…

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8 Comments

  • Margaret was a great campaigner, but she didn’t have any airs and graces. She came to help us in Chessington and didn’t complain when given the main road to knock-up – just got on with it.

  • Sadie Smith 14th Jul '16 - 9:35pm

    Hope Margaret enjoys a bit more time doing whatever suits.
    She has contributed so much to the Party. She illuminated debates.

  • Denis Loretto 15th Jul '16 - 8:54am

    Margaret and her husband Tom have been the archetypical stalwarts of Gjildford liberal democracy for many many years. Their home has been open house to party acti vists

  • David Evans 15th Jul '16 - 8:56am

    Margaret is an absolute star and deserves the plaudits. Her success in Guildford was down to the huge amounts of hard work she was prepared to put in over many years, which as Mark says “helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001”. An ideal candidate; very, very clever; with a consistent approach to policy; and with a real common touch.

    She was key in our party’s rejection of top-up fees, which contributed hugely to our success in the 2005 election. Sadly the party was led away from that policy in coalition and the consequences clear.

    We all should learn from the values she embodied: a clear analysis and understanding of the problems our people face; a willingness to work hard year after year to earn residents’ trust; a consistency of approach not jettisoned for a moment’s fame; and above all a loyalty to Liberal Democracy and all its values.

  • Denis Loretto 15th Jul '16 - 9:01am

    Oops, hit the button too soon. Continuation –

    …..activists from far and wide and I suspect will continue to be. An immensely valuable career and a hopefully a happy and somewhat more relaxed retirement.

  • Lawrence Patterson 15th Jul '16 - 9:54am

    One of the few that held conferences attention — if you new Margaret was speaking you had to be there –her analysis, her awareness and her plain common sense won many over — a great advocate for life long learning. Enjoy a well earned rest Margaret.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '16 - 3:29pm

    and on the regional executive in the southeast after the merger.

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