Category Archives: Obituaries

Dr Frances Alexander (1935-2020)

This is a longer piece than we would usually publish, but we feel that it is important that Frances’ contribution to her community and wider society is marked.

Dr Frances Alexander, the former Lib Dem mayor of High Wycombe, died last week aged 84. Frances made things happen.

Things she cared passionately about: new organisations, new practical solutions in High Wycombe, groups for the advancement of women, ways to address environmental damage, events to bring her family together. She embodied the idea of ‘Think Global, Act Local’. Her achievements are wide and resounding, and she touched the lives of very many …

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A woman for all seasons: remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In an early episode of the American cartoon sitcom Family Guy, the central characters are in their sitting room experiencing a case of spontaneous speech synchronization – they keep saying the same things at the same time. The sketch ends with them all spontaneously saying the name of the same person: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg”.

The joke worked because Justice Ginsburg was someone who everyone knew, but rarely talked about. Like any good lawyer and judge, her late career was marked by a fight for fairness, equanimity, and rapport – values hard to come by in an age of increasing political polarization. Her friendships, such as with Chief Justice Roberts and the recently deceased conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, set a tone of collegiality for the court, even when they were most divided.

My partner is a lawyer, and (not uncoincidentally) an extremely principled person with a thirst for justice. It is sometimes difficult, in the legal discipline, to square that circle. Lawyers themselves often see lawyering as a necessary evil, a symptom of the broken world that they are trying to heal. Thomas More, himself a lawyer and judge, imagined in his Utopia that “There are no lawyers, because no one wishes to conceal anything”.

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In memory of Ireland’s favourite Englishman – Jack Charlton

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Ireland’s favourite Englishman, Jack Charlton, was buried this week and if it wasn’t for Covid, a state funeral would no doubt have been planned for him in Ireland.

The news broke on Saturday, July 11th of his passing followed by an outpouring of emotions. Big Jack wasn’t just a football manager. He took us on an adventure. He helped create a more confident Ireland. Robert Emmett said during his trial for the failed 1803 Rebellion ‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written.’ It was Jack who took us to our place among nations.

We need to go back in time to remember what Anglo-Irish relations were like back in the 1980s. Big Jack took on the Irish job in 1986. He had played on the 1966 winning English team but didn’t receive the same accolades as others did. He dedicated himself to a long career with Leeds United before managing Newcastle United. He applied for the English job and publicly spoke of his anger of being ignored by the FA.

There was skepticism of his appointment at first. The Troubles were at their height, England still considered the ‘Old Enemy’. He took Ireland to her first major tournament in 1988 beating an overly confident England one-nil. It was a watershed moment.

Then came Italia ‘90. Ireland made it to the quarter-finals. What can be said about Italia ‘90 that doesn’t leave Irish eyes smiling. It was a golden age of Irish football. A confident Ireland was emerging. Italia ‘90 kick started it followed by the annual Eurovision from Ireland, Riverdance and the Celtic Tiger. Being Irish was cool!

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Thank you David Becket: the pleasure was ours…

It is with great sadness that news arrives of the passing for a long-standing former councillor. Staffordshire activist David Becket, has died at his home in Betley, Newcastle under Lyme; it was multiple medical problems, but not including the virus.

David was well known for outstanding hard work in the old Halmerend ward that he represented and also for very significant work he did as Liberal Democrat on the Newcastle Borough Council. He was on many committees (he loved and hated them) and for 5 years was on the cabinet 2006-2011. Elected in 2002, David was elected Mayor of the Borough of Newcastle for 2012/13 with his wife Dr Anne Becket as mayoress.

David’s passion, well he was passionate about many things, was the environment and recycling.  He was very proud of his role in taking the recycling service at Newcastle from a failing service to winning three national awards. To his credit – and it was a sign of the man – he decided to step back from having a Cabinet role at this time.  “Always leave when you are winning”, he would boom at anyone willing to listen. He stood down from the Council in 2015 and was made an Honorary Alderman of the Borough – “its fluff” he said, “but its nice fluff” and he was deeply proud of the elevation.

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How can the economy work for the benefit of all?

I received the sad news this week that Dr. Peter Bowman had been taken by COVID-19 in the prime of his life. Peter was Head of Economics at the School of Economic Science (SES).

The SES was founded in 1938 by Labour MP Andrew McLaren to teach courses on economics with a focus on Land Value Taxation policies. McLaren’s political hero was Campbell-Bannerman, and he often repeated CB’s pledge “… to make the land less of a pleasure ground for the rich, and more of a treasure-house for the nation …”.

The MP was firmly against the welfare state, believing it merely appeared to be necessary due to the prevailing inequities in the economic system. When not in parliament he poured his effort and talent into education, hoping to make people see how land value taxation could relieve society of many unhelpful economic tendencies, and provide economic freedom for the common people.

Dr. Peter Bowman followed in the footsteps of McLaren in giving freely of his time and energy in trying to make this world a better place. Peter was instrumental in developing the work of the All-Party Group on Land Value Capture under the Chairmanship of Vince Cable and overseeing the preparation of the group’s first report.

Social justice was Peter’s passion. Speaking in this ten-minute video Changing Paradigms in Economics: Economics as Relationships, Peter emphasises that a just economy is about relationships in society and how we treat fairly with people. Justice prevails in an economy that is based on honesty; trust’ loyalty; a sense of service and satisfaction. Too often what we have is the opposite.

Peter gave the 2015 School of Economic Science Annual Economics Lecture How can the economy work for the benefit of all? The lecture asks how can the economy work for the benefit of all and gives some simple propositions.

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Obituary – David Hughes


David Hughes died suddenly at a Party meeting last Saturday. David spoke with his usual with passion, eloquence and good sense. But there was far more to my old friend.

In 1973 the St Paul’s School pupil left London for Lincoln. Labour MP Dick Taverne had resigned to fight a by-election as a pro-European, Independent Social Democrat. Taverne won, and David’s lifelong commitment to liberalism began.

In 1975 he was elected Student Union President, one of only four Liberal Presidents.‎ I was one of the others.‎ As Presidents-elect, we sought each other out. …

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David Hughes

We are very sad to have to report that David Hughes passed away suddenly yesterday at the meeting of the English Council, of which he was the Treasurer.

As stated on the party’s website, David was the current Chair of the Western Counties. He had also been a parliamentary candidate three times, and was a former chair of both the party’s candidates association and its national students’ organisation.

As Treasurer, David also Chaired the English Finance and Administration Committee.

Our heartfelt sympathy go to his family, friends and colleagues.

A full tribute to David will be published later in the week.

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A tribute to Robbie Simpson

Robbie Simpson, long-standing Lib Dem activist, died suddenly in Geneva at the beginning of January. He was 30 years old. To lose such a talent, and such a friend as Robbie, is a tragedy beyond comprehension. To try and summarise his impact is nearly impossible, but I hope this goes some way to remind us all of the wonderful friend we have lost.

I met Robbie at my first meeting of Glasgow University Liberal Democrats in September 2009. He was a very tall, kind looking man, although it took me three weeks to understand his accent (which was not unique to his village but in fact entirely unique to him). After spending the first two years of his Computing Science degree commuting by bus from Ayrshire (two hours each way every day), he had finally moved to Glasgow and was able to get involved in student politics. Within the month we, with many others, were being swept away by waves of Cleggmania, pounding the streets of Glasgow North with the indefatigable Katy Gordon.

Robbie stayed involved in student activism, becoming a member of Glasgow University’s Student’s Representative Council. He became the Treasurer of Liberal Youth Scotland (after an internship at Deutsche Bank, he stood unopposed for the unenviable position with the slogan ‘Vote Robbie – he speaks bank’) where he had a profound impact on both the youth wing and those he met through it. He turned it from a small group of activists into a credible voice within the party, and helped build a coordinated network of young Lib Dem campaigners across Scotland. He supported younger members to become involved, and was a kind and friendly ear. Those he met through Glasgow University Lib Dems and Liberal Youth Scotland remained some of his closest friends.

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LibLink: Bob Maclennan – An appreciation by Sam Ghibaldan

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On January 20th, we republished, with kind permission of the author, a moving personal tribute to Bob Maclennan (Lord Maclennan of Rogart) by Andrew Page.

The Herald newspaper has published an obituary of Bob by Sam Ghibaldan.

The tribute begins:

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Goodbye Bob, the kindest of politicians

Note from the Editorial Team: This touching personal tribute to Bob Maclennan was published over the weekend on “A Scottish Liberal” – the blog of Andrew Page. We liked it so much that we asked Andrew if we could reproduce it here, and he kindly agreed.

Today I discovered that my friend, one time mentor and godfather to my daughter Xanthe has passed away at the age of 83.

Robert Maclennan, Lord Maclennan of Rogart (but always “Bob” to me) was the son of a gynaecologist (Sir Hector Maclennan) and a forward-thinking …

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More warm tributes to Bob Maclennan

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There have been more touching tributes to Bob Maclennan via Twitter overnight, from across the political spectrum:

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Geoff Tordoff (1928-2019)

Last week we learned the sad news that Geoff Tordoff had died. This is a personal tribute and assessment of his life as a Liberal. Geoff was essentially a very nice person. He had a modest even self-effacing manner and invariably had a smile on his face and a chuckle in his greeting, but his Liberal commitment was deep and his impact on the party’s organisation and strength was significant indeed for over half a century. Geoffrey Johnson Tordoff was a politician who made friends rather than enemies.

Geoff started life in Lancaster and was educated at Manchester Grammar School …

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Sir Gerald Kaufman R.I.P.

 

From Iain Donaldson, Chair of Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley Liberal Democrats:

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death yesterday of Sir Gerald Kaufman, Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton.

I first met Sir Gerald over 30 years ago when he visited (then) Wright Robinson High School whilst I was studying in the sixth-form.  I can honestly say that despite our having been political opponents for the many years I have known him he was a kind and gentle man whose acerbic wit was always used in good humour to promote the causes close to his heart.  He was also a devoted servant of the people of Manchester Gorton.

Over the years we have worked together where we agreed and opposed each other where we disagreed but on all occasions I found him to be as courteous as he was determined.

At this time I would like on behalf of the Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley Liberal Democrats to convey our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sir Gerald Kaufman and to his colleagues in the Labour Party.

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Remembering Aberfan

We end the day as we began it by paying tribute to the people, past and present, of Aberfan. Here is a newsreel of the day from British Movietone:

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Remembering Aberfan – ‘a generation wiped out’

At this moment fifty years ago, disaster hit a mining village in Gwent, Wales, as the BBC remembers:

It took just five minutes for the coal tip above Aberfan to slide down the mountain and engulf a farm, several houses and a school.

Pupils at Pantglas Junior School were just beginning their first lessons of the day when the rushing landslide of mud and debris flooded into their classrooms.

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Obituary: John David – an immense presence in the Pendle community

john-davidLifelong Liberal stalwart John David died early on Monday morning. John David was an immense presence in the Pendle community who served as a Liberal and Liberal Democrat member of Pendle Borough Council for 28 years. He was elected in May 1986 for the Fence area until retiring in May 2014 due to ill health. He was Leader of the Council from 2008 to 2010 and Deputy Leader from 2012 to 2014, and served as a highly distinguished Mayor of Pendle in 1992/1993.

A proud Welshman (not least when Wales were on the rugby field) John was a lifelong Liberal. He stood for the Liberals in Bosworth in the 1964 General Election, polling 10652 votes, almost a fifth of the total, in a seat the party had not previously contested. By the 1980s he was living in Pendle in Lancashire, running a business in Burnley, and in the 1986 Council elections Gordon Lishman (then the Pendle PPC) sat in his kitchen until, in Gordon’s words, “John signed the nomination form to get rid of me on the promise that he had no chance of election”. He won and held the seat for 28 years.

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Splendid and moving tribute to David Rendel, former Liberal Democrat MP

David Rendel at Anti-Iraq war demo 15th Feb 2003 Some rights reserved by Paul Walter

David Rendel at the 2003 London march against the Iraq war. David described voting against the Iraq invasion, in the House of Commons, as his proudest moment.

Last Monday, a memorial event was held for former Liberal Democrat MP, David Rendel. This was at the Corn Exchange theatre in Newbury. Family, friends, colleagues and former constituents of David filled the hall to overflowing.

The tributes started with a film of David’s life put together by Rachael Clarke, Deputy head of policy of the Liberal Democrats. This film included video footage and photos from David’s political and family life.

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A reminder about the memorial event for David Rendel on 4th July

David Rendel at Anti-Iraq war demo 15th Feb 2003 Some rights reserved by Paul WalterThe life and legacy of David Rendel, Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury 1993-2005, will be remembered by his family, friends and colleagues at Newbury’s Corn Exchange on Monday 4th July 2016. All are welcome at the event which will begin at 1.00pm.

Donations in David’s memory may be made to Voluntary Service Overseas or Médecins Sans Frontières (UK); there is a Just Giving page for this.

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Moving message from Tim Farron about Jo Cox MP’s murder

Our party leader, Tim Farron has just sent this moving message to Liberal Democrat members:

This morning with my kids all I could think about was the family who’ve woken up with their lives changed forever.

Yesterday a mum, who left home to do her job to serve her constituents, was cruelly and brutally taken from them. Her husband and their children are in my thoughts and prayers.

When something terrible happens, I feel it. I am not one of those who shies away from emotion. And I, like so many others, am really feeling it today.

In Orlando, when all those people were massacred for simply being themselves, the hurt was overwhelming. And here in Britain, we have seen terror on our streets and lost an incredible woman.

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Jo Cox MP


Readers may have noticed that we suspended normal posting yesterday, as soon as news came through of the tragic death of Jo Cox MP.

As a mark of respect, for 24 hours after that cruel blow to the operation of democracy, we have carried only material related to tributes to (and vigils for) Jo Cox MP.

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A selection of tweets in memory of Jo Cox MP


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Vigils will be held across the country tonight in memory of Jo Cox MP

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Jo Cox MP 1974 – 2016

As a simple tribute to Jo Cox MP, here, on video first and then in text form, is her sparkling maiden speech in the House of Commons from 3rd June 2015:

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David Rendel obituary in the Telegraph and Guardian

David Rendel at Anti-Iraq war demo 15th Feb 2003 Some rights reserved by Paul Walter
A half page obituary of David Rendel appears in the Telegraph today. You can read it here.

Update: The Guardian have also published an obituary here.

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David Rendel memorial event will be held on 4th July

David Rendel at Anti-Iraq war demo 15th Feb 2003 Some rights reserved by Paul WalterEarlier this week, we reported the sad death of former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel.

David’s funeral will be attended only by members of his family but all will be welcome at a memorial event to be held on Monday 4th July at the Corn Exchange, Market Place, Newbury, starting at 1.00 pm.

There will be an opportunity to make a donation to charity in David’s name – details will be announced in due course.

It is particularly fitting that the memorial event is being held at the Corn Exchange. It is an historic and striking building in the centre of the town he loved, Newbury. David led the campaign to save the Corn Exchange from closure and revitalize it as a modern arts and entertainment venue.

My photo above shows David, with the Houses of Parliament in the background, on the anti-Iraq war demonstration with other Liberal Democrats on 15th February 2003.

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Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown pay eloquent tribute to David Rendel

On BBC Radio Berkshire’s Andrew Peach show this morning there was a great tribute to David Rendel. Andrew Peach said some touching words about the many times he interviewed David. He then played a superb clip of David in full “fighting form” defending the Newbury by-pass at its 20th anniversary in January. Then Tim and Paddy came on the line and paid superb, eloquent tributes to David.

It really is a great 15 minutes of radio. You can listen to it here on BBC iPlayer at 1′ 17″.

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David Rendel 1949-2016

David Rendel on Newbury Town Hall steps - Some rights reserved  by Martin TodAs we reported earlier, former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel has died aged 67.

David was born in 1949 in Athens, Greece. His father was a foreign correspondent for The Times, and he was a great-grandson of civil engineer Sir Alexander Meadows Rendel, and a great-great-nephew of Liberal MP Stuart Rendel, the first Baron Rendel, a benefactor of William Gladstone, as noted in Roy Jenkins’ book “Gladstone: A Biography”.

David was educated first at Horris Hill school, Newtown, Hampshire, and then as a scholar at Eton College. He spent 14 months as a volunteer teacher in Cameroon and Uganda with Voluntary Service Overseas. Afterwards he went to Magdalen College and St Cross College, Oxford where he gained a degree in Physics and Philosophy and rowed in the record-breaking Boat Race crew of 1974.

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Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown pay tribute to David Rendel

David Rendel on Newbury Town Hall steps - Some rights reserved  by Martin TodPaying tribute to David Rendel, former Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury who passed away last night, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

I am hugely saddened by the loss of David Rendel. He was a committed, selfless individual who I will remember particularly for his unyielding campaigning over so many years. I will miss him.

He won a stunning by-election victory in Newbury where he and his team showed the Liberal Democrats had the fight and passion to deliver a fantastic result in a challenging political climate. It was inspirational then, and is inspirational today as Liberal Democrats fight to rebuild.

His continuing work with the party, standing again as a candidate in the 2010 and 2015 elections, and serving on the party’s Federal Executive typified the resilience, commitment and resolve with which he approached politics.

He was a friend and colleague who I know will be sorely missed by his friends, family and the party.

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Former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel dies

We’re very sorry to report that former Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel has died. Our sincere thoughts are with David’s family at this very sad time.

Party leader, Tim Farron has tweeted:

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Lord Avebury was a giant in the struggle to outlaw Caste-based discrimination in the UK

This article is rather longer than usual but offers a different perspective on Eric Avebury and his commitment to international human rights. The author is Vice Chair of the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA), and the President of the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK (FABO UK).

Eric-Avebury-March-2013

Lord Eric Avebury at an Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance-led protest outside Parliament on 4 March 2013 supporting legislation to outlaw Caste-based discrimination in the UK

I first met Lord Eric Avebury on 11 November 2009 at the official launch of the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA)’s report Hidden Apartheid – A voice of the Community that he willingly hosted for us in the House of Lords. He was the first parliamentarian to respond to ACDA. That report and that historic meeting would help shape Parliamentary consciousness to do with Caste-based Discrimination (CBD) and legislation during the following, critical months.

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