Category Archives: Obituaries

Jonathan Davies (1961-2021)

It is with deep sadness, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) announce the passing of our dear friend and long-time LDFI Vice-Chairman and Treasurer Jonathan Davies, after a year-long illness.

Jonathan, an Oxford graduate and former Partner and Head of the Financial Services team at a large City law firm, was a Liberal Democrat stalwart. On a local level, Jonathan was a phenomenal activist in the London Borough of Barnet. He represented Childs Hill as a councillor from 1994-1998, stood for Parliament in Finchley and Golders Green on three occasions and was appointed the ward’s election agent in the very high profile 2019 election, as well as being elected as Chair of the English Party of the Liberal Democrats in 2010. His talents, dedication and calming influence spanned decades, and he devoted countless hours to campaigning for and supporting the Party.

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Hans van Baalen (1960-2021)

It has been announced that Johannes Cornelis “Hans” van Baalen, President of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party, passed away this morning after a short period in hospital, having recently been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A member of VVD (The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), he served as a member of the Dutch Parliament between 1999 and 2002, and from 2003 until 2009 until he took his seat in the European Parliament. His political career started as the International Secretary of VVD, the first step in what became a love of international politics that saw him rise to the top of European and international liberalism.

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Liberal Democrat Voice pays tribute to Shirley Williams

Members of the Liberal Democrat Voice team pay tribute to Shirley Williams

Paul Walter:
I took the (rather fuzzy) photo of Shirley (above) at the Spring Conference in Brighton in 2013.

My mother is not “Political” although she has a great political understanding, with a small “p”.

Back in the late 1960s, she saw Shirley Williams as her favourite politician. Simply because she was, in my mother’s words, “so sensible”,

I knew what she meant. There was always something about how Shirley spoke.

In debates she would never get heated or involved in “argy-bargy”. She would listen carefully to the opposing views, with her head slightly leaning to one side, and take notes. (In fact, reviewing photos of Shirley over the years, I see that she often had her head leaning slightly to one side as if to emphasise that she was listening). When it came to her turn to speak, she would be absolutely devastating (to the opposition) because she would be composed, informed, “as sharp as a tack” and take down the opposing view with extreme precision. In doing so, she always appeared to be totally calm but absolutely precise.

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Shirley Williams – a tribute

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I first met Shirley as a teenage student. I served with her on the Labour Committee for Europe. I was at her side as she chaired every session of every SDP conference. And latterly I worked with her closely in the Lords where initially she was my leader and, more recently and improbably, I was hers.

Over these 50 years, Shirley didn’t really change. She was passionate about the things she believed in – principally social justice and Europe. She was fearless in advocating these things and was prepared to take political hostility head on to promote them.

But what set Shirley apart from any other politicians I’ve met was her empathy and her charisma. She was genuinely interested in other people, their ideas and their lives. And she had a special magnetic charm which meant that people warmed to her and were energised by her.

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Tributes to Shirley Williams

Many warm tributes have been paid to Shirley Williams, who sadly passed away yesterday.

Here are a selection of the tributes:

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David Penwarden dies at 88

The Liberal Democrats lost a much-loved colleague, mentor and campaigner on February 8th.

David Penwarden was a member of the Party for about 70 years, his first role being President of the 1000-strong Oxford University Liberal Party. He took pride in making it the largest political society at the University, a feat he attributed to holding meetings at the women’s colleges rather than the men’s colleges where the other parties operated!

He first stood as a Liberal candidate in the 1955 General Election in a, not unsurprisingly, unsuccessful campaign in West Ham North where he used beer-mats with the message ‘Vote Penwarden for peace, progress, prosperity’. He did get elected later, however, as a Liberal councillor for the County Borough of West Ham.

In 1961 he moved with his wife and young children to Berkshire where he was elected to Reading Borough Council. In 1963 he stood unsuccessfully in a by-election for the Deptford constituency.

In 1966 the family moved to Harpenden and David stood in the South Bedfordshire constituency in both the 1974 general elections. David was the Chair of the Liberal Party’s Candidates Committee in 1978-80. He stood for Hemel Hempstead in the 1979 general election.

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Ed Fordham on Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie

They come along in three’s: but none of us expected to put Jonathan Fryer, Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie in the same sentence in such a short period of time. Three liberals who now feature in our hearts, in our memories and in our stories. But if we do them justice they will feature in our actions, our principles and that will keep them alive in our hearts.

LDV has published obituaries for Tony Greaves and Derek Barrie. Jonathan Fryer is terminally ill and has sadly written his last Facebook post.

These were three very different people.

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A tribute to Ann Winfield

At Lib Dem Voice we were sad to hear of the death of Ann Winfield.

Her husband, Rif, writes:

My wife Ann Winfield, Liberal Parliamentary candidate in the 1983 General Election for Newham North East, former Assistant Secretary of the London Liberal Party, and Leader of the Liberal Group on Newham London Borough Council from 1982 to 1986, died in Bronglais General Hospital at 8pm on Christmas Eve, 24 December. She was 69½ years old.

Born Ann Spriggs in Ladywood, Birmingham, in mid 1951, she was recruited into the Liberal Party (at the age of 9!) by Wallace Lawler, who subsequently became Liberal

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Joan “Penny” Ewens (1926-2020)

Michael Meadowcroft has kindly drawn our attention to an obituary recently published in the Yorkshire Post

Joan “Penny” Ewens, who has died at 94, was a two-term Leeds councillor and honorary Alderman, having been elected to the council in her late 70s after a lifetime of activism.

Born Joan Penwill, she adopted the forename Penny at her school in Liverpool to differentiate her from five other Joans in her class. She served in the Intelligence Corps during the war and met her future husband, David Ewens, on VE day in London. They were married soon afterwards.

David’s job brought them to Leeds in 1960 and, as a mature student, she enrolled at the James Graham Teacher Training College. After a spell at the Kitson College she settled into a long career at West Park High School where she took a particular interest in careers and in drama.

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John Roberts – a tribute

John Roberts with Judith Trefor Thomas had the idea, and with the great support of Emlyn Hooson, founded the Welsh Liberal Summer School meeting first in Llangollen. It developed ultimately into the Lloyd George Society of which he was an executive member for many years. His purpose was to have a meeting place where we could discuss Liberal policies and exchange ideas, with a Welsh flavour.

Having broken away from the central Liberal organisation, the LPO, in 1967, the new Welsh Liberal Party needed its own distinctive policies. John was foremost in engaging academics and journalists who threw us ideas. I remember in particular how we worked on economic policies with the theme that bribing industry with cash subsidies to open branch projects in Wales was ultimately fruitless. What was needed was investment in infrastructure which would make Wales a desirable place for investment – roads, rail electrification, airlinks, trading estates, a new Severn crossing and upgrading the A55. Free Ports in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea was one of the policies we developed, a concept which this Tory government fifty years later seems now to have latched onto.

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Lord David Shutt (1942-2020)

It is with much sadness that Liberal Democrat Voice reports the death of David Shutt overnight. David was probably better known for his central role in the early years of the Coalition, as Chief Whip in the Lords, but he was a key figure in Yorkshire and beyond, a stalwart Quaker and a source of wisdom for those who needed it. Our condolences go to his wife, Margaret, and his family and friends.

Rather than running through a somewhat impersonal list of achievements, I thought that it would be more meaningful to publish his last contribution in the Lords, which perhaps is as good a way of marking his commitment to democracy and to liberalism. On 8 October, he moved an amendment to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, seeking to improve the accuracy and completeness of electoral registers…

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 16 as an important enhancement of the Bill, which would improve the accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers for future reviews.

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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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