As David Heath stands down, local councillor Sam Phripp pays a personal tribute

On Friday night at a constituency meeting, David Heath, my MP, my boss and my friend told Liberal Democrats that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2015. I couldn’t honestly write down all the things that I was feeling then – sometimes we’re feeling too many things at the same time.

I wanted to write now and talk about the man that I know, and how him standing down will be a great personal loss so many people in Somerton and Frome.

To me, David Heath isn’t a politician, he’s the chap who knew instinctively to ask about my A-Level results after I’d taken the month before exams off to help his campaign. He’s the guy who got up on the morning of the local elections and delivered Good Morning leaflets with us until the sun came up, then went to run my committee room in Rode. He’s also the man who accepts that occasionally I’ll turn up at his office, and need a talking to.

My first memory of David was actually during the 2005 General Election. Walking away from school at 3pm, he drove past in a Land Rover plastered in Orange Posters. I asked my friend what it was about, his answer?

That’s David Heath. He works with the Queen or something.

Little did we know then that one day, David would indeed serve in Her Majesty’s Government, something that we in his constituency office have been unerringly proud of.

One thing that I won’t miss, is David’s startling ability to say just the wrong thing at just the wrong time. I’ll never forget leaving him on the day of Local Elections in 2011, after he’d said:

Don’t worry Sam, please remember that I didn’t win that seat the first time round.

Of course, what happened was that I did, but this wasn’t before I was carted off to the count in near hysterics.

A person who won’t have a heavy heart is David’s wife Caz. David rightly said on Friday that he’d promised Caz after the last General Election that he wouldn’t do it again. I for one am happy for Caz, as she’ll get her husband back after thirty years and she won’t have to go through another election night count, something which for her is an almost life threatening event. I imagine his decision is far less to do with reshuffles and majorities and far more to do with the fact that seeing Caz almost pass out can’t be nice for her husband.

For local people, this will be a loss regardless of political persuasion. As an area, we have David to thank every time we use the Frome bypass, every time we visit an art gallery in Frome, or the library. Or we drink great local cider that doesn’t have a punitive tax levied upon it. Or, we use the Maternity Unit, which David has managed to save from closure a number of times.

On a personal level, I’ll miss David because, politically and otherwise, he’s a man I look up to. When I won my County Council seat in May this year, I worked doubly hard because it had been David’s seat. For me, Somerton and Frome is Heath Country and always will be. Somebody once said of David:

If you cut him in half, like a stick of rock, he’d have Somerset going right through him.

It’s a testament to his career that walking around Frome this morning, I saw signs of David’s work everywhere.

So, it’s a big thank you to David, from his friends, his staff and everybody involved at any point in any of his campaigns. There will of course be a selection campaign that will begin soon and people will queue up to take a shot at this seat. They will, regardless have very big shoes to fill and a very luxuriant beard to grow.

* Sam Phripp is a District Councillor from Frome in Somerset. He blogs at www.sosamsaid.blogspot.com

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3 Comments

  • Heath played a crucuial part in the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, something that even Thatcher did not do. That is something that you clearly forgot to mention in your article!

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