Brian Cotter 1936-2023, former Lib Dem MP for Weston-super-Mare

Brian was born in London, the son of a doctor from Weston-super-Mare and was educated in London and Somerset. After doing his National Service he entered business, eventually running his own small manufacturing company in Hampshire. Brian married Eyleen in the 1960s and they had two sons and a daughter together.

Brian came into politics relatively late, not joining the Liberal Party until his 40s. He became active in Woking and was elected to Woking Borough Council in 1986, as a Liberal/SDP Alliance candidate, representing the Mount Hermon West ward. He retained this seat until standing down in 1990.

Brian moved to Weston-super-Mare that year following his selection as our Parliamentary Candidate for the 1992 General Election. He set about campaigning with gusto and personally knocked on thousands of doors and helped to recruit new members and deliverers everywhere he went. He took us to a strong second place securing more votes than any Liberal or Liberal Democrat candidate in the history of the seat.

Brian was reselected and contested the seat again at the 1997 General Election, winning this time with a majority of 1,274 over the Conservative – the first non-Conservative for 74 years. He successfully defended the seat in 2001, holding on with a reduced majority.  In 2005, Brian was defeated by the Conservatives, and in the following year was nominated to the House of Lords by the late Charles Kennedy MP and he served in the upper chamber until his death.

My standout memories of campaigning with Brian include in the run-up to the 1997 General Election when we were expecting a flying visit from Paddy – literally, as he was landing in a helicopter on the beach. Paddy was running late (of course) and the Conservative candidate drove round and round the Beach Lawns – where Brian and around a hundred of our supporters were waiting for Paddy – and heckled through the loudspeaker on her Land Rover: “They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek that Paddy everywhere”. Brian delivered an impromptu speech and pointed out that if the best the Tories could do was watch us then we were winning already – and he was right.

There was also the time when we launched a tourism report and invited our then Tourism Spokesman, the late Robert Maclennan MP, to join us meeting local businesses. Brian spoke passionately about the need for government intervention to support tourism businesses and expertly fielded questions from the assembled media. One enterprising hack put their hand up and asked if Brian and Bob could some up Weston-super-Mare in one word. Brian immediately said: “Wonderful”. Bob shifted in his seat a little and then said “revivifying”. It never did make it into the town’s tourism slogan!

Throughout his time in Parliament Brian was a loud and consistent advocate for tourism and small businesses. He was also linked with All Party Parliamentary Groups on China, having developed a close connection with the country established through his interest in Chinese medicine.

In the constituency, Brian will be remembered as a dedicated, kind man who always had time for people and genuinely cared about the community. He remained the patron of several local charities and supported the local party whenever he could.

Brian died on 14 November 2023 in Weston-super-Mare with his family around him.

* Mike Bell is Leader of North Somerset Council, a long-standing councillor in Weston-super-Mare and was Brian Cotter’s Election Agent and Head of Office from June 1995 to December 2001.

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6 Comments

  • Keith Sharp 17th Nov '23 - 7:21am

    A sad but fitting tribute. Brian was exceptionally thoughtful and attentive and on several occasions made time to support/mentor me when I first became a candidate, even though he himself was dedicated to his constituency work and we’d only met passingly at a party event. Thoughts and condolences to his family and friends.

  • I remember being at the count in Epsom for the 1997 GE. The result “Liberal Democrats gain Weston-super-Mare” flashed up on a TV screen.

    I wasn’t aware that WSM was a target. That was our first gain. Many more followed.

  • David Evans 17th Nov '23 - 9:36am

    An incredible man, took WSM from being a long shot to an actual gain, through massive amounts of hard work and dedication. He will be missed.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 19th Nov '23 - 10:55am

    Hi Mike …what a lovely tribute to Dad …Thanks very much indeed…A real flavour of the Man and he was rightly so Proud of what was achieved in Weston…..
    We Must Win this Parliamentary Seat back asap
    Dad’s Funeral is at Corpus Christi RC Church on Tuesday 12/12 at 1pm …followed by the Crematorium Service and a Celebration of his Life at a central Weston Location …to be Advised
    Cllr Nick Cotter Cherwell District Council and on behalf of Mum Eyleen, Sister Isabel, and Brother Dominic and all his 9 Grandchildren…💛💛💛☺️👏👏

  • David Blake 23rd Nov '23 - 6:12pm
  • Dominic Cotter 23rd Nov '23 - 8:26pm

    As my brother Nick says a fitting tribute to dad and we cannot thank you enough for all the support you gave him over the years ..x

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